Turf injuries

By: Sarah Burns DPM, FACFAS and Daniel Lowinger DPM, FACFAS.

The Seahawks and Sounders play on it. And you may too.

Artificial grass, also known as turf, is used for many playing surfaces from professional sports to local parks.

However, conversation continues on whether turf surface increases muscle and bone injuries because of friction generated.

Foot Injuries

Last year, professional women’s soccer players filed a petition to FIFA (La Fédération Internationale de Football Association) to ban artificial grass surfaces from the 2015 Women’s World Cup fields due to a fear of an increase in injuries.

Playing on turf causes increases friction to your foot and ligaments. When you stop running, your foot, or great toe, stops movement first, while the rest of the body continues to progress forward, creating torque force. Two of the most common injuries are turf toe and ankle sprains.

For turf toe, when you jam your big toe, the torque force created occurs through the great toe joint.

For ankle sprains, the torque force occurs in surrounding ligaments and creates greater impact because of sudden deceleration. Full ligament ruptures can occur and lead to long term instability and arthritis if not appropriately treated. Symptoms of ankle sprains include swelling or bruising and not being able to bear weight. Consider seeing a podiatrist for evaluation if your symptoms last longer than two weeks.


Avoid turf toe injuries and ankle sprains by finding supportive footwear. Proper footwear keeps the toe joint from excessive bending. You can also use inserts to support feet from discomfort and cramping.

Wear the Proper Footwear

Tips for Proper Footwear

  • Choose cleats based on playing surface.
  • Even with turf shoes, there is still a chance of injury even when wearing the proper footwear.
  • Wear sports or athletic socks. They keep your feet from sliding and prevent blisters while providing additional padding from impact and pressure of a harder surface such as turf. Look for acrylic or synthetic materials, to increase durability, moisture wicking and odor repellant features.

Many shoes are not suited for turf fields. Traditional athletic cleats use long plastic or metal studs that can get caught in the turf surface, potentially increasing your chance of non-contact muscle and joint injuries. Running shoes don’t provide enough traction, which can lead to slipping.

Look for specific turf cleats designed to hold up on turf surfaces, provide support structure and protective padding. These utilize shorter and rounder rubber studs, gripping the surface and assisting in pushing off with minimal slippage.

Warning: Hot Turf

Artificial turf surfaces retain heat easily, resulting in a sauna-like effect. Studies have shown that air temperatures in the 80s and 90s can cause turf temperatures to exceed 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can feel the burning sensation on your feet when playing on a turf field in hot temperatures. Not only do your feet feel uncomfortable, but dehydration can come into play. Avoid playing on artificial turf If you experience foot discomfort from surface heat.

Evaluation for Ankle and Foot Injuries

Getting proper evaluation can help you get back to play sooner. If you have questions about ankle and foot injuries, call The Polyclinic Podiatry Department for expert diagnosis and comprehensive treatment.


November 4, 2016 | by The Polyclinic