Treating Turf Toe

Aug 15, 2021

With school back in session, sports like football become a big part of many students’ lives. Whether it’s in college or high school, quite a few schools have replaced their grass fields with artificial turf in the hope of increasing an athlete’s speed. With this, though, comes a new ailment called turf toe. What is turf toe? Turf toe is a sprain of the main joint of the big toe.A painful injury, turf toe is very common and can keep an athlete from competing until it’s fully healed. Because artificial turf doesn’t ‘give’ like natural grass, when a foot is firmly planted and the heel is raised it can hyperextend the toe, injuring the main joint. Football is not the only sport that this can happen with. Any sport played on artificial turf like soccer or lacrosse can also see turf toe injuries.

Symptoms of turf toe include:

  • Pain in the front of your foot
  • Swelling in your big toe
  • Bruising in the front of your foot
  • Inability to bend your toe downward
  • Toe joint looseness
  • Inability to put weight on your foot

The best way to treat turf toe is to see your podiatrist. Your podiatrist can examine the bones in your foot by taking an x-ray or check the soft tissue in your foot with an MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan.  If they detect turf toe, they will categorize it and treat it appropriately.

Turf toe has 3 levels. They are:

  • Grade 1 – Pain is tolerable and will not keep the athlete from competing, but will have to use a type of stiff-soled shoe or appropriate orthotic. Treatment is called RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation.
  • Grade 2 – The main joint must be immobilized usually with a walking boot for about a week. After, the foot and toe need to be wrapped and RICE applied.
  • Grade 3 – The most serious level requires immobilization for several weeks with a walking boot or cast, keeping the joint pointing downward.

If the condition doesn’t get better, surgery may be recommended. It is important to treat turf toe as soon as possible to avoid long-term complications like joint pain, arthritis, bunions and the inability to push off the foot.

If you believe you have turf toe or have any other concerns about your feet, make an appointment with us at Foot and Ankle Specialists of Central PA and our doctors Terry H. Clarke and Karen M. Leonard will diagnose you and treat you appropriately.  We are located at 4 Flowers Drive, Suite 2, Mechanicsburg, PA, 17050. Our phone number is 717-620-8225.