C’mon Man…Turf Toe!?! Is That Even A Real Thing?

C’mon Man…Turf Toe!?! Is That Even A Real Thing?

As many of you know, I have been writing guest blog posts for The Fantasy Doctors about sports related injuries. There have been some odd ones this season for sure. One injury that prompted today’s Teach Me Something Tuesday blog post doesn’t even sound real. C’mon Man…Turf Toe!?! Is That Even A Real Thing? I can assure you from personal experience that it IS INDEED A REAL THING!

C'mon Man...Turf Toe!?! Is That Even A Real Thing?
Turf Toe

My Experience With Turf Toe

It was a dark and stormy night…just kidding it was like 6:00pm on a summer Tuesday night, and I was in the clinic closing up. I tripped over the rug. Yes, the rug monster jumped up and grabbed me. The rubber sole on the bottom of my shoe caught the carpet and dragged quickly stubbing my toe about 3 times into the ground before I tripped and regained my balance. I felt a little sore, then I walked it off. The next day I could hardly walk. It was excruciating pain on weight bearing.

The Injury

The easiest way to define turf toe is that it is a sprain or strain of the main joint of the big toe. It occurs when the toe is bent up into hyperextension, as in the sprinters position and having the toe get stuck flat on the ground.

These sprains of the big toe joint became especially common in American football players after artificial turf became more common on their fields – hence the name “turf toe.” Artificial turf is a slightly harder surface than grass and does not “give” as much when forces are placed on it. Although most commonly associated with football, turf toe occurs in a wide range of sports and activities. (Like tripping on a carpet).

“Turf toe” refers to an injury of any soft tissue structure in the plantar complex, such as the plantar plate or a collateral ligament. Just like any sprain or strain injury, these injuries can vary in severity — from stretching of the soft tissue to partial tearing of the muscle or tendon, and even total dislocation of the MTP (big toe joint).

Doctors generally grade the injuries from 1 to 3 – mild to severe.

  • Grade 1. The plantar complex has been stretched causing pin-point pain and tenderness and slight swelling.
  • Grade 2. A partial tearing of the plantar complex causes more widespread tenderness, moderate swelling, and possible bruising. Movement of the toe is limited and painful.
  • Grade 3. The plantar complex is completely torn causing severe tenderness, severe swelling, and bruising. It is difficult and painful to move the big toe.


Turf Toe is a real thing and it hurts like hell (depending on the grade). I can be treated with as little as ice and rest, or even require surgery if bad enough. If you feel like you may have injured your big toe in this hyperextension fashion, talk to your movement specialist (a.k.a. Physical Therapist) as soon as possible. If not treated appropriately it could become a lingering issue that keeps popping up (like the case of Jeremy Shockey, former NFL Tight End who battled turf toe throughout his career).

C'mon Man...Turf Toe!?! Is That Even A Real Thing?
Jeremy Shockey

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