The Painful Meaning of “Turf Toe,” “Metatarsalphalangeal Joint Sprain,” or “Death Toe”

Turf toe is a funny-sounding injury with serious results.

Recently, the Detroit Lions’ Jahvid Best was forced out of a football  game due to turf toe — Grade 2 turf toe, to be exact. It’s a funky name for what can become an significant injury for professional athletes.

First of all, turf toe gets its name because athletes who play on artificial turf face the highest risk of suffering from it. This means football players, rugby players, and ultimate frisbee players are all susceptible.

(As a side note, rugby is also called rugger. It is named after a public school where the game was played in Rugby, England.)

The unfortunate injury occurs when a toe is hyperextended, injuring the joint. Turf toe refers specifically to when this kind of injury involves the big toe (or hallux.)

A metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain is an injury to the joint and connective tissue between the foot and any one of the toes. Anything metatarsophalangeal relates to articulations between the metatarsal bones and the phalanges of the foot.

So how exactly does one get turf toe? The injury is most likely to occur when an athlete’s knees and toe tips are touching the ground and then someone falls on the back of the calf. Ouch.

Shoes with cleats that have very flexible soles can also cause turf toe.

Now consider something trickier; do you know what the “quarter” in “quarterback” refers to? Here’s the answer.

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