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What is Turf Toe?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Turf toes are injuries that occur to the big toe. Essentially, turf toe is a sprain at the base of the big toe, resulting from unusual amounts of stress placed on the ligaments that control the range of motion for the toe. When the toe is extended beyond the usual range of motion, such as bending the toe in an uncomfortable direction, the ligaments are stretched and usually torn slightly.

It is possible to develop turf toe in a number of different settings. While the condition is normally associated with athletic activities that are played on artificial turf, it is not necessary to be an athlete in order to suffer from toe pain of this type. Even tripping while walking on natural or artificial grass can possibly extend the toe beyond normal limits and tear the ligaments.

Recognizing turf toe is not difficult, as the condition exhibits several physical characteristics, just about all of them metatarsophalangeal in nature. One common sign of a mild case of turf toe or turf feet is the appearance of bruises around the ball of the foot and along the top of the big toe. In more severe cases, the toe is extremely tender to the touch and swelling of both the toe and the ball of the foot will be present.

Because of the nature of turf toe, the individual suffering with the condition usually experiences a change in mobility. It is often painful to place any amount of weight on the affected foot, with any pressure applied to the ball of the foot particularly uncomfortable. The process of walking is also negatively impacted by the fact that the torn ligaments make it very difficult to push off using the big toe with experiencing sharp bursts of pain. Due to the swelling, the big toe loses much of the normal range of motion.

Treatment of turf toe usually involves attempts to lessen the swelling and immobilize the big toe as much as possible. To this end, alternating the application of heat and cold for the first twenty-four hours is often recommended, with cold compresses applied thereafter. Over the counter medications that help to reduce the amount of inflammation in the area are also helpful in decreasing pain and helping the swelling to incrementally subside. The foot should be elevated as much as possible, thus relieving strain on the turf toe and allowing the torn ligaments to begin the healing process.

In situations with severe swelling, it is wise to see a doctor immediately. A physician can examine the toe and determine if the damage requires placing a cast on the area or if prescription anti-inflammatory medication would be helpful. Most cases, however, can be treated at home and will not require a visit to the doctor. A simple regimen of applying cold to the swollen area, taking medicine to alleviate the inflammation, and elevating the foot for long periods will make it possible for turf toe to begin subsiding in a matter of days.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By StreamFinder — On Oct 02, 2010

If I have some mild turf toe symptoms -- i.e. a little bruising and pain, but not a whole lot of pain, and the bruises fading pretty quickly -- should I even begin treating myself for turf toe, or should I just wait and see?

By CopperPipe — On Oct 02, 2010

What exactly is involved in turf toe physical therapy? For example, are there turf toe therapy exercises, or what?

I have been wearing a turf toe brace for a few weeks now after an injury, and am about to start PT -- can you tell me what I should expect out of this? They said if it didn't go well then I might have to do turf toe surgery, so I want to learn about it and do really well so that I can avoid the surgery. Thanks for the info.

By musicshaman — On Oct 02, 2010

If someone is showing turf toe symptoms, how long can they wait before they get treated? I'm pretty sure that I have turf toe, but I've been trying to just use turf toe taping and other home treatments to keep it in line until after my game this weekend. Are there any ways that I can deal with the turf toe symptoms and pain until I get treatment?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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