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Turf Toe: Funny Name for a Serious Problem

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Names are important. They help identify an object and, to some degree, describe it—and can make something sound more serious or silly. When someone tells you they have a broken bone, you know right away they’ve suffered a painful and typically serious injury.


When someone says they have turf toe, however, most people don’t think much of it. The name sound almost too funny to be serious. However, this is an injury that can sideline athletes for weeks and leave anyone limping in pain.


Turf toe is actually a sprain in the connective tissue around your big toe. It got its name because it was most common among athletes playing on artificial turf, and grew more common the more the turf spread in popularity.


You sprain your big toe when it’s hyperextended backward. The damage isn’t just limited to athletes, of course. Anyone can jam their digit up and back when they trip, fall, or collide with something.


This is more serious than it sounds. The ligaments that support your big toe secure and stabilize it. They are necessary for your toe’s ability to push off the ground effectively. If your toe is unstable or in pain because these connectors have been overstretched or torn, you can’t use this digit to push off the ground when you walk or run. In fact, walking at all may be extremely uncomfortable until you heal.


A sprained big toe swells painfully and becomes stiff and difficult to move. The digit will feel tender to the touch and possibly develop bruises. Like other sprains, the injury has degrees of damage, from mild to moderate to severe. A mild sprain may just involve over-stretching in the toe and bruising in the joint tissues. Moderate injuries involve partial tissue tears, while severe ones involve a complete rupture somewhere. Also like other sprains, the damage doesn’t heal well on its own—and it might even get worse without treatment, leading to chronic pain and weakness.


So while turf toe may be a funny name for a sprained big toe, the damage is real and can have painful consequences. Our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC in Metairie, LA, can help you diagnose the problem and start treatment right away. Don’t let the funny name fool you into blowing off this injury. Use our online contact forms or call (504) 708-4810 to take care of your big toe today.


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