Turf Toe

Turf Toe

Turf toe is a condition of pain at the base of the big toe, located at the ball of the foot. The condition is usually caused from either jamming the toe, or pushing off repeatedly when running or jumping. The most common complaint is pain at the base of the toe, but you may also have symptoms of stiffness and swelling.

The name turf toe comes from the fact that this injury is especially common among athletes who play on artificial turf. The hard surface of artificial turf, combined with running and jumping in football and soccer, make turf toe a frequent consequence of artificial turn play. There has also been some blame on athletic footwear. The more flexible shoes, especially used in competition, provides less support to the forefoot joints, possibly contributing to the prevalence of turf toe.


What happens to the toe in turf toe?
When a player sustains a turf toe injury they are actually tearing the capsule that surrounds the joint at the base of the toe. Tearing this joint capsule can be extremely painful. Furthermore, tear of the joint capsule can lead to instability and even dislocation of the joint at the base of the toe. This may lead to accelerated cartilage wear and arthritis of the big toe (hallux rigidus).


How is turf toe diagnosed? 
Turf toe is diagnosed based primarily on the physical examination of the
patient. Making the diagnosis of turf toe is not difficult, but x-rays may be taken to ensure there is no fracture or evidence of arthritis.

What is the treatment of turf toe?
Treatment of turf toe consists of trying to control the inflammation of the joint capsule. The most important aspect of treatment is to rest the sore toe to allow the inflammation is subside and the joint capsule to heal. In addition to resting the toe, inflammation can be controlled by icing the area, and elevating the foot, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Athletes diagnosed with turf toe should avoid their sport for about three weeks to allow the joint capsule to heal. Once returning to activities, special footwear inserts can be used to limit the motion of the big toe and prevent further damage to the joint capsule. Ask your doctor to evaluate your feet for possible inserts that can control motion of the inflamed joint.


Will turf toe return?
Unfortunately, turf toe can return, and rehabilitation may be slow. Most athletes have trouble when they try to come back to sports too soon after sustaining a turf toe injury. Surgery is rarely needed for treatment of turf toe, but in certain cases it may be helpful. If a bone spur forms, and severely limits motion of the toe joint, surgery to remove the spur may be helpful.