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An Overview of Turf Toe: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates


An Overview of Turf Toe: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

Have you ever heard of turf toe? Chances are you’ve heard the term but don’t know exactly what it is. Turf toe is an injury to the ligaments around the big toe joint—also known as the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. It commonly occurs in athletes who play sports on artificial turf surfaces or hard natural ground. In this article, we will discuss its common symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention methods to help you better understand turf toe and how to treat it.

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What is Turf Toe?

Turf toe occurs when the big toe joint is hyperextended backward beyond its normal range of motion. This puts excessive strain on the ligaments that connect the toes to the foot and can cause them to become severely overstretched or completely torn. The most common symptom of turf toe is pain along with swelling, bruising and a feeling of instability at the base of the big toe. Depending on how severe your injury is, you may also experience difficulty walking or bending your big toe.

Turf toe is an injury most commonly seen among athletes due to the sudden and sharp movements of quick turns, stops, and running. It often affects sports such as football, soccer, and basketball. The plantar plate located underneath the big toe can become overstretched or torn from these activities and cause extreme discomfort. Symptoms from turf toe include pain when walking on a hard surface, swelling in the area of the injury, decreases range or movement in your toe, and difficulty standing or putting weight on it. Diagnosis is usually done through physical examination coupled with imaging scans that are undertaken for further assurance. Treatment for turf toe can include icing the affected area, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), wearing a stiff-soled shoe with orthotics inserts to reduce strain on your toe, or even surgery in some severe cases. With the prevention of turf toe being difficult due to its spontaneous nature - regular stretching before exercise and building up strength in your foot can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing this type of injury.

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Diagnosis of Turf Toe

Turf toe is an incredibly uncomfortable condition that is common among athletes who participate in contact sports. The symptoms of turf toe can range from light pain and soreness to more severe cases of bruising and swelling in the front of the foot that can make it difficult for someone to put weight on their toes or bend them. Those affected by turf toe may find simple activities like walking, jumping, running, and changing direction unbearable, resulting in a need to take time off from athletic activities in order to recover. Treatment options include applying ice directly to the area as well as taking anti-inflammatory medications, but consultation with a doctor should always be the first step toward a successful recovery.

A diagnosis for a foot and ankle injury usually begins with a consultation with an expert in this type of surgery. During the appointment, they will ask several questions pertaining to your symptoms, daily activities, and medical history. Generally speaking, x-rays may be ordered if they deem it necessary to gain further insight into the severity of the injury. In some cases, MRIs may also be utilized on a grade 1-3 spectrum depending on the injury's degree. With these methods at their disposal, doctors can accurately diagnose and properly treat the problem in order to get you back to feeling comfortable again.

If you suspect that you have sustained a turf toe injury, it’s important to seek medical attention right away in order to prevent further damage and ensure proper healing. Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination and take radiographs (x-rays) in order to confirm a diagnosis. MRI scans may also be used if necessary in order to gain more information about your injury and determine its severity.

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Treatment and Prevention of Turf Toe

Turf toe is an injury commonly seen in athletes who participate in sports on artificial playing surfaces like football fields or track fields made from hard ground materials like asphalt or concrete. Its symptoms include pain along with swelling, bruising, and instability at the base of the big toe which can make walking difficult if left untreated for too long. Diagnoses typically involve physical exams as well as imaging tests such as x-rays or MRI scans. Treatment includes rest and ice therapy along with elastic compression bandages/elevation for swelling reduction as well as pain medications/taping techniques for additional support during activity/exercise; finally, proper footwear/supportive inserts should be worn during activities as preventive measures against future injuries due to their shock absorbing properties against hard surfaces made from artificial turf/asphalt/concrete, etc. By following these steps outlined above anyone experiencing symptoms related to turf toe should be able to properly diagnose and treat their injuries accordingly!

Additionally, an injury affecting the plantar plate as well is called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an irritation on the heel of the foot that can cause pain, redness, and swelling. Treatment methods for plantar fasciitis depend upon its severity but generally involve rest from activities that cause pain, applying cold packs three to four times a day, using elastic compression, and elevating the foot. Over-the-counter medications may provide relief from pain, while a taping technique using 1” and 2” athletic tape sprayed with adhesive onto skin following the protocol given by a physician or credible tutorials online can be used in certain cases. To prevent further injury, it's important to also wear adequate footwear providing arch support and extra padding if needed. With these treatments in place, most people with plantar fasciitis can avoid long-term complications associated with foot problems and manage their condition successfully.


Turf toe is an injury that is unfortunately all too common among athletes, as it often results from forceful upward motion of the heel beyond its design limits when the toe is planted on the ground. This movement can be especially difficult for athletes due to the intense physical activity that can occur during sports, where there may be a great amount of pressure placed on the toes and ankles due to sudden changes in direction and quickness. The most common way to prevent turf toe is to ensure that proper shoes are used while playing any sport, as they will provide adequate protection and cushioning while engaging in rigorous physical activity. Strengthening and stretching of the muscles around this area are also important to avoid overstretching or overextension while playing.

When it comes to treating turf toe injuries, rest and ice therapy are key components for reducing inflammation and pain levels while allowing time for healing. Elastic compression bandages or elevation can also help reduce swelling while providing support for your injured area. If needed, pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce discomfort associated with the injury while taping techniques can provide further support during activity or exercise. Additionally, wearing proper footwear with adequate cushioning and supportive inserts during activities can help protect against future injuries by helping absorb shock from impacts with hard surfaces like artificial turf fields or tracks.

If you think you're suffering from Turf Toe, make an appointment with Princeton Orthopaedic Associates. We want to help you get back to your active self as soon as possible.

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