Turf toe refers to a sprained joint in the big toe. This condition is seen more frequently in athletes who play on artificial turf (although it can happen on natural surfaces and floors as well) because that surface is less giving than natural grass and the foot may stick and not move as fluidly on it. Restricted movement of the big toe, accompanied by pain and swelling are the symptoms of turf toe. It can come about in two ways:
Acute Onset: When an injury happens, such as your toe jams into the ground when you are being tackled in a football game, you may experience an extreme and immediate pain in the big toe joint. Over the course of the next 24 hours, swelling will occur and the pain will get worse. It will be difficult to bend the toe and putting weight on it may not be possible.
Gradual Onset: Turf toe may be less obvious when it comes on slowly but the symptoms are the same—pain and swelling in the big toe joint and stiffness—just less intense and the symptoms may come and go. This is more of an overuse injury and at Lansdowne Podiatry, it’s a condition we see commonly in people who participate in sports and activities that involve repeated upward bending and pushing off on the big toe. These include: dance, gymnastics, wrestling, basketball, football, soccer and running.
Our board qualified podiatrist, Dr. Monique Renee Rolle, will examine your toe and foot and may order x-rays or other imaging studies to rule out a broken bone or other type of injury. She will also take a medical history and ask questions about the sports and activities you participate in regularly. In some cases, inappropriate or unsupportive footwear can be a factor in turf toe. If turf toe is the result of an injury and the damage is extreme, surgery may be required. In most cases however, it’s sufficient to follow the RICE protocol:
The foot doctor may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to relieve pain and swelling in the initial phase of treatment.