PT Tip of the Month Archive

Turf Toe (Metatarsophalangeal Joint Sprain)

What is turf toe?

Turf toe, also known as a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, is an injury of the joint and connective tissue between the 1st toe and the foot. With this condition, the joint can become bruised or the ligaments and joint capsule can be torn. Turf toe gets its name because the injury commonly occurs in athletes who play on artificial turf. The injury tends to happen when an athlete jams his or her foot into the ground and forcefully bends back the big toe. This is more likely to happen on turf since it tends to be harder and less forgiving than natural grass. However, turf toe can happen on any playing surface.

Symptoms of turf toe:

Turf toe can be a very painful condition and typically there will be soreness and swelling at the base of the big toe. The pain can be very problematic because when someone tries to push off of his/her foot, this motion creates force at the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint, which will generate an increase in pain with this type of injury. This inability to push off greatly diminishes the ability to plant, run, and quickly change directions.


Prognosis and prevention of turf toe:

The prognosis of returning to competition after this type of injury is good, however the likelihood of future injury increases. There is a loss in mobility of the joint after injury meaning that it will be easier to suffer a re-injury or aggravation, because less motion will be needed to reach the limits of the joint. In order to prevent further re-injury it may be necessary to wear stiffer soled shoes, which help provide support to the joint. Also athletic taping of the foot/toe can also be used to provide additional support. Preventing frequent re-injury is important, because the more the joint becomes injured, the higher the possibility of developing arthritis.

Treatment of turf toe:

Initially after a turf toe injury, RICE (Rest, ice, compression, elevation) will be the first course of treatment. After the swelling and pain become more controlled, a patient can begin physical therapy. Many possible treatments are available and may include: manual therapy to help regain joint mobility, strength training to help return to athletic activity, athletic taping to help support the joint, or balance training to help prevent re-injury.

If you have a history of turf toe and would like to schedule an evaluation, please call 617-232-PAIN for our Brookline office and 617-325-PAIN for our West Roxbury office.

33 Pond Avenue, Suite 107B Brookline, MA 02445 Tel: (617) 232-PAIN (7246) Fax: (617) 232-5196
1208B VFW Parkway, Suite 202 West Roxbury, MA 02132 Tel: (617) 325-PAIN (7246) Fax: (617) 325-7282