There are 30 joints in the foot that work together to help us run, walk and jump. Turf toe is a sprain of the ligaments or tendons in the metatarsalphalangeal (MTP) joint of the big toe and can result in redness, swelling and pain at the base of the toe.

Turf toe typically occurs during a traumatic incident where the toe is stretched too far backward in the direction of the shin. It is common among athletes participating in soccer, rugby, beach volleyball, and football, and may occur more often when playing on artificial turf.

The symptoms of turf toe include:

  • Swelling and pain at the joint of the big toe and metatarsal bone
  • Pain and tenderness on bending the toe or pulling it upward
  • Cramping in the arch of the foot
  • Difficulty walking, running or performing sports activities

Conservative treatment for turf toe includes avoiding the activities that cause pain, rest and immobilization, possible splinting, ice, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications.

If symptoms do not improve, the foot and ankle team at Lancaster Orthopedic Group may recommend immobilizing the foot in a brace or walking boot. Surgical treatment of turf toe is rarely necessary unless there is bone fracture, damage to the cartilage, or a complete tearing of the tendon.