TURF TOE

What Is Turf Toe?

Foot and Ankle Specialists define “Turf Toe” as an injury of the big toe joint. It occurs when the big toe bends too far, too forcefully. This motion causes the soft tissues connecting the big toe joint to sprain.

Turf Toe commonly arises among athletes participating in sports with explosive activity, as they frequently push off the front of their foot to launch into a sprint, or make sudden changes of direction while running. In most cases, the injury will heal on its own over time with rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Turf Toe injuries that fail to respond to this treatment may require surgical repair. 

What Are The Symptoms of Turf Toe?

If the injury that caused the turf toe happened suddenly, patients may have felt a “pop”. Pain and swelling from a sudden injury usually comes on right away. 

Turf toe symptoms accrued from repetitive injuries over time tend to appear slowly and grow over time. Symptoms of turf toe can include: 

  • Pain/Tenderness: The injured toe can hurt when touching the affected area. Patients may find themselves unable to comfortably walk with Turf Toe. 
  • Swelling and bruising: Inflammation may cause the base of the big toe to swell. Bruising may appear around the swollen toe and extend up to the top of the foot. 
  • Limited range of motion: Patients may find themselves unable to move their big toe up or down. They may feel weakness in the foot 
  • Joint that feels loose: The metatarsophalangeal joint (the big toe joint) may feel out of place or unstable, or even too stiff. 

What Causes Turf Toe?

Turf Toe injuries occur when the big toe bends at an extreme angle while pressed flat against the ground, Usually with the heel high off the ground. With too much force applied on the big toe, it can hyperextend, causing ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues to stretch or tear. 

Turf toe most often results from repetitive movements over time, especially in sports and ballet. Though rarer, the injury can also occur during sudden trauma, such as when a football player tackles an opponent whose toe is planted firmly on the ground. Athletes in sports that involve sudden foot movements and changes in direction risk developing Turf Toe.

Types of Turf Toe Injuries?

Foot and Ankle Specialists classify the different levels of turf toe as: 

  • Grade 1: Occurs when the soft tissue stretches without tearing. Causes slight swelling and sensitivity that may limit a patient’s ability to participate in various sports and exercises.
  • Grade 2:  Occurs when the soft tissue partially tears. The area has intense tenderness and will cause more extensive swelling and bruising. 
  • Grade 3: Occurs when the Soft tissues completely tear. May stem from a dislocated MTP joint. Causes severe swelling and pain in the MTP joint.

How Is Turf Toe Diagnosed?

The Foot and Ankle Specialist will examine the toe and gently touch around the area to check for tenderness. They will ask patients to move their toe to test the range of motion. To check for more extensive damage in the bones and soft tissues, physicians may order an X-ray or MRI scan.

How Do Specialists Treat Turf Toe?

Most toe sprains heal over time with plenty of rest. Grade 1 and Grade 2 turf toe injuries usually recover after conservative treatments that patients can do at home. Your provider will usually  recommend rest, Ice, elevation, and over-the-counter pain medication. Expert physical therapists can prescribe personalized exercises and stretches to help the toe heal properly. Physicians may also prescribe Orthopedic Shoes and stabilization tape to insure the injured joint stays in place while the toe heals. If these conservative treatments fail to relieve pain, Foot and Ankle Specialists may consider stabilization surgery.