Turf Toe

Turf toe is a term that refers to the sprain of the big toe ligaments, also called as metatarsophalangeal joint sprain. It is a condition caused by jamming the big toe or repeatedly forcing it while running or jumping, causing hyperextension of the ligament.

It is a condition more often seen in athletes that play in artificial turf, but it can happen on any kind of surface.

Sometimes turf toe can happen if the athlete is not wearing the right kind of shoes or cleats that support the foot the right way.

The patient can suffer from swelling, pain and limited joint movement in one of the big toes. The symptoms can occur gradually, getting worse over time, or it can happen suddenly, which will cause something like a “pop”, and the turf toe will start to get worse in the next 24 hours. 

Here we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments for this specific condition and how to prevent it.


What are the causes?

This condition can be caused in any kind of sports or activity when the forefoot is fixed to the ground with the heel raised, and there is a big force that pushes the big toe, causing the hyperextension.

Caused by repeatedly forcing the ligaments of the big toe, turf toe is a common condition between athletes. It is often diagnosed in football, baseball, basketball players and other kinds of athletes that demand high body performance.

Turf toe is a condition that reaches around the big toe joints that provides up and down movements. We have two bones called sesamoids, they work as a pulley for the tendon and provide leverage when you walk or run, also absorbing the weight on the ball of the foot. 

An example is when you run. You’re trying to “push off” your body from the ground, making your weight alternate between your two feet, and consequently your toes. If the toe is suddenly put in too much tension, you can hyperextend the toe ligament.


The turf toe symptoms can be classified from mild to severe, and it depends on which kind of injury you have.

You can have turf toe from repetitive injuries, that will increase the symptoms gradually and will get worse over time. Or you can acquire this condition by a sudden injury, which will get the pain and symptoms coming right away. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Joint feeling loose: The metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint may pop out of place or feel like it’s unstable. The joint may also feel stiff.
  • Pain and tenderness: Maybe you’ll have it hurt when you press the area or maybe the pain will be constant. This will cause you to have severe pain when you try to put weight on the region.
  • Limited range of motion: This may cause you to not be able to move your toe or bend it. Can cause weakness of the foot and make you unable to push off the ground.
  • Swelling: Your toe may be inflamed, the bruising of the swollen toa can extend around the toe and up to the top of the foot.


This condition may have different treatments as the injury may have different levels from mild to severe. Here are some of them:

  • Rest: Your provider shall indicate to you how much time of rest without putting weight on the foot you should have. Depending on the severity of the injury you may have to take some weeks from sports and activities to heal well and walking boots or crutches may be required to assist you.
  • Ice and elevation: For ice reduces swelling and pain, you may relax every few hours with your foot in a high place, applying cold compresses to help the turf toe healing process.
  • Physical therapy (PT): An experienced physical therapist may help you with stretches and exercises that will help with reducing stiffness, improving flexibility and strengthening your muscles.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication: Talk to your provider about taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These over-the-counter medications relieve pain and reduce swelling.

These are some of the treatments that you will need to heal your turf toe, but we always recommend you to make an appointment with a professional and get your personalized treatment.

If you are still having questions or may need professional help, why not book an appointment with us at Pathak Podiatry and start your treatment right away?