Treating Turf Toe In Athletes

“Turf toe,” a condition that develops when the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ) in the foot is hyperextended, was given its name shortly after artificial turf was invented in the 1960s and ‘70s. According to Medicine and Science in Sports, football shoes during this time period became much softer and more pliable, and artificial turf would increase an athlete’s chance of developing this toe injury. Today, turf toe is still a relatively common injury in athletes, especially soccer and football players.

According to researchers from the Department of Sports Medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, a study involving 80 football players with toe injuries reported 85% of them suffered from turf toe specifically. Additionally, 83% of these players reported their turf toe injury occurred while playing on artificial turf. If you believe you have turf toe, you may be experiencing the following symptoms, which are common with this condition:

  • Pain, swelling, and limited mobility at the base of the big toe
  • Pain that worsens over time from repetitive use of the injured toe
  • Pain that is immediate or develops within the first 24 hours
  • A “pop” that is felt or heard at the time of the injury

Because the injury is pretty apparent immediately after it occurs, it’s important to receive first aid before long-term treatment becomes available. The surgeons at Scottsdale Liberty Hospital may suggest the RICE method for pain relief and to reduce swelling. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. First, you’ll want to rest the toe by taking a break from the activity that could have caused the injury. Next, apply ice or a cold pack to the injured area for about 20 minutes, several times a day.

To reduce swelling, compress the area with an elastic bandage and keep it elevated to decrease blood flow to the injury site. During this time, you may take over-the-counter painkillers to achieve relief from your symptoms. Finally, call your PCP or a podiatrist to schedule an appointment. The partner podiatrists at Scottsdale Liberty Hospital can examine your injury and recommend the best form of treatment.

Nonsurgical treatment through immobilization and physical therapy may be sought first. If the damage is extensive, surgery may be necessary to ensure you can play your sport again. Surgery is custom to the type of injury that is present. For example, surgery to repair a severe tear of the plantar complex is different from a procedure that corrects vertical instability of the MTP joint. Ultimately, you’ll want to talk to your podiatrist at Scottsdale Liberty Hospital about the best form of treatment for you!

For more information on Scottsdale Liberty Hospital and how we can help you or a loved one, visit our information request page, or contact us at 480-586-2300

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.