“Turf toe” is the common term used to describe a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint.
The ligaments around the toe joint can become strained by jamming the big toe or repeatedly pushing off the big toe forcefully, as in running and jumping.
Typically, the injury is sudden. It is most commonly seen in athletes playing on artificial surfaces, which are harder than grass surfaces and to which cleats are more likely to stick. It can also happen on a grass surface, especially if the shoe worn doesn’t provide adequate support. The injury often occurs in athletes wearing flexible soccer-style shoes that let the foot bend too far forward.
The most common symptoms of turf toe include pain, swelling and limited joint movement at the base of one big toe.
If caused by a sudden forceful motion, the injury can be painful immediately and worsen within 24 hours. Sometimes when the injury occurs, a “pop” can be felt. If caused by a repetitive injury, symptoms develop slowly and gradually get worse over time.
- Rest, ice, compress and elevate (R.I.C.E)
- Use over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen to control pain and reduce inflammation.
- Tape or strap the injured toe to the toe next to it or immobilize the foot in a cast or special walking boot to keep it from moving.
- Use crutches so that no weight is placed on the injured joint.
Physical therapy will re-establish range of motion, strength, and conditioning of the injured toe. It typically takes two to three weeks for the pain to subside. In severe cases, an orthopedic surgeon may suggest a surgical intervention.