Turf toe describes a sprain of the ball of the foot at the great toe. A sprain means that the ligaments (tissues connecting two bones) are stretched or torn. This injury most commonly affects football athletes playing on artificial turf with "turf shoes." When the athlete tries to stop quickly, the shoe grabs the turf. As the great toe slides over the insole and hits the inside of the shoe, it is sprained.
The great toe can also be injured when it is forced to extend more than it normally can. For example, turf toe can occur when the athlete is standing on the balls of the feet and another athlete pushes him or her forward, hyperextending the great toe.
A doctor needs to examine the athlete who may have turf toe. Treatment consists of applying ice, heat, and tape or stiff-soled inserts in the shoe to restrict movement of the great toe. The athlete must follow the prescribed treatment to alleviate this disabling condition and to return to his or her normal level of function.
Bruce Getz, ATC, and Kelli Bowermeister