Interpreting Turf Toe Symptoms

Turf toe symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. They may include the following.

Pain and Tenderness

Some turf toe injuries are not particularly painful. However, in most cases, athletes will notice mild to severe pain immediately after experiencing a turf toe injury. This pain may be constant, or it may only bother patients when they put weight on their big toe or press on the injured joint.

Swelling and Bruising

Higher-grade cases of turf toe may involve inflammation. The injury site may also be surrounded by bruises, which may occur on the injured toe and extend all the way to the top of the foot.

Reduced Range of Motion

Since turf toe entails damage to the ligaments and tissue of the big toe joint, victims may not be able to move their toes freely.

Joint Discomfort

Serious turf toe injuries could cause the dislocation of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints, or “toe knuckles.” A dislocated MTP joint may pop out of place unexpectedly or feel like it is unstable and incapable of bearing weight.

Three Grades of Turf Toe Injuries

Podiatrists and other medical professionals usually categorize turf toe injuries into different grades. These grades are determined both by physical damage to the big toe joint and by the patient’s reported symptoms. The three types of turf toe injuries include:

  • Grade 1. In a grade 1 injury, the soft tissue surrounding the big toe joint may be stretched but not torn. It may be sensitive to touch and appear visibly swollen. Many people with low-grade turf toe injuries can continue playing sports but may notice a reduced range of motion.
  • Grade 2. Mid-grade turf toe injuries tear some of the ligaments around the toe joint. Pain is more intense, and the injury site may be surrounded by obvious bruising.
  • Grade 3. A grade 3 turf toe injury occurs when soft tissue near the big toe is completely torn. These injuries are sometimes accompanied by a dislocation of the MTP joint. 

Higher-grade turf toe injuries usually limit motion and can make any type of movement painful. It is essential that you see a podiatrist to learn the extent of your turf toe injury.

How Podiatrists Treat Turf Toe

Mild to moderate cases of turf toe can typically be resolved with conservative measures at home. Depending on the circumstances of your injury, Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle might recommend:

  • Resting your foot and taking time away from sports
  • Applying ice to the injury and using cold compresses to reduce pain and swelling
  • Taking over-the-counter medication to relieve pain

However, more advanced injuries may require more novel solutions, including the use of orthotic devices to provide additional support to the toe and damaged MTP joint. In very severe cases, we might also recommend surgery.

Dr. P. Roman Burk
Providing experienced private practice podiatry services in the Caldwell and Meridian, ID area since 2007.