What is Turf Toe?

The term “Turf Toe” is often used to describe any injury to the big toe joint. In reality it is a specific big toe joint injury.

The big toe joint, also known as first metatarsal-phalangeal joint or 1st MTPJ is designed to function by bending upward when we walk forward. Under the 1st MPTJ there are two small bones known as sesamoids which are embedded in a tendon that attaches to the big toe. The sesamoids function as miniature pulleys, assisting in 1st toe motion. The sesamoid bones slide forward and back as the big toe moves up and down. .

If during activity the big toe joint is moved beyond it’s normal range of motion, the ligaments surrounding the joint can be torn or stretched. Torn or stretched ligaments are known as a sprain, so Turf Toe is a sprain of the big toe joint.

This injury often occurs during an abrupt change of direction in soccer or a tackle while playing football if the cleated shoe becomes too fixed to the ground.

Treatment of Turf Toe

If you think you might have turf toe, or any injury to the big toe joint, make an appointment today to see us in our Seattle office. If not treated properly joint injuries can lead to long-term disability, including arthritis, so don’t try to treat joint injuries yourself. We will perform a complete evaluation of the injured area in order to determine your specific diagnosis. X-rays will likely be taken to help rule-out a fracture or dislocation. On occasion, we might order advanced imaging studies such as bone scan, CT scan or MRI.

Once we have determined the nature and extent of the injury we will start treatment. Our goal is to get you back to activity as fast as possible while ensuring that the joint is completely healed and will not cause you any long-term problems. Depending on extent of injury, we may recommend rest, anti-inflammatory care, strapping, and/or immobilization. Some injuries require the use of a walking boot (removable cast) while with others we may recommend the use of a steel insole inside your shoe.

In some cases we will design a custom orthotic that acts to make the big toe joint function more effectively in order to help prevent further injury and speed a return to activity.

The goal of treatment is to return you to activity and competition, without risk of further injury. In order to do this it is necessary to understand the initial mechanism of injury and modify it if possible.

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