Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Turf Toe

Turf toe is a sprain of the main joint of the big toe, typically occurring in athletes who play sports on artificial turf. The condition results from excessive upward bending of the big toe joint and is common in football, soccer, and other sports that require sudden changes in direction or rapid acceleration.

Common Symptoms

  • Pain: Sharp pain at the base of the big toe, particularly during push-off movements.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the MTP joint.
  • Bruising: Discoloration or bruising around the affected area.
  • Limited Movement: Reduced range of motion in the big toe, making it difficult to walk or run.
  • Tenderness: Sensitivity to touch around the big toe joint.

Cause & Anatomy

Causes and Risk Factors:

  • Hyperextension: Excessive upward bending of the big toe joint, often occurring when an athlete pushes off the ground forcefully.
  • Repetitive Stress: Continuous strain on the big toe joint from activities like running and jumping.
  • Artificial Turf: Playing on artificial turf, which is harder and less forgiving than natural grass, increases the risk.
  • Inadequate Footwear: Shoes that do not provide adequate support or cushioning can contribute to turf toe.

Anatomy of the Big Toe:

  • Metatarsophalangeal (MTP) Joint: The joint where the first metatarsal bone (the long bone in the foot) connects with the proximal phalanx (the first bone in the big toe).
  • Sesamoid Bones: Small bones embedded within the tendons of the big toe, providing a smooth surface over which the tendons move.
  • Ligaments and Tendons: Connective tissues that provide stability and facilitate movement of the big toe.


  • Assessment of symptoms, activity level, and history of injury.
  • Physical examination to evaluate pain, swelling, and range of motion.
  • X-rays: To rule out fractures or bone abnormalities.
  • MRI or Ultrasound: To assess the extent of soft tissue damage.


  • Proper Footwear: Wearing shoes with adequate support and cushioning, especially when playing sports on artificial turf.
  • Warm-Up and Stretching: Engaging in proper warm-up and stretching exercises before physical activity.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Regularly performing exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the big toe.
  • Avoiding Overuse: Taking breaks and avoiding repetitive stress on the big toe joint.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms to allow the joint to heal.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Compression: Using a compression bandage to minimize swelling.
  • Elevation: Keeping the foot elevated to reduce swelling.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or NSAIDs to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Immobilization: Using a stiff-soled shoe, walking boot, or taping the toe to limit movement and protect the joint.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to restore strength and flexibility once the acute pain subsides.

Surgical Treatments

Surgery is rarely needed for turf toe unless there is severe damage to the ligaments or sesamoid bones. Surgical options may include repairing or reconstructing the damaged tissues.


  • Gradual Return to Activity: Slowly reintroducing activities to prevent re-injury.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Focusing on exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the big toe.
  • Flexibility Training: Stretching exercises to maintain or improve the range of motion.
  • Footwear Modifications: Wearing shoes with proper support and cushioning to prevent future injuries.

Potential Complications:

  • Chronic Pain: Persistent pain if the injury does not heal properly.
  • Joint Stiffness: Reduced flexibility in the big toe joint.
  • Arthritis: Increased risk of developing arthritis in the MTP joint over time.


How long does it take to recover from turf toe?
Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the injury. Mild cases may recover in a few weeks, while severe cases may take several months.

Can I play sports with turf toe?
It is advisable to rest and allow the injury to heal before returning to sports. Continuing to play can worsen the condition.

Are there long-term effects of turf toe?
If not properly treated, turf toe can lead to chronic pain, stiffness, and an increased risk of arthritis in the big toe joint.

What kind of shoes should I wear to prevent turf toe?
Wear shoes with good support and cushioning, especially if you play sports on artificial turf. Stiff-soled shoes can also help limit excessive toe bending.

Can turf toe recur?
Yes, turf toe can recur if preventive measures are not taken or if the joint is subjected to similar stresses before it fully heals.

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