Overview on turf toe

Fact Checked

Turf toe is a sprain affecting the big toe due to injury during sports. The damage generally arises from extreme upward flexing of the big toe joint.

This condition can also stem from other circumstances such as ramming the toe or repeated injury from running or jumping. Even though this injury is widely reported in football players, those who play basketball, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling and dance are also at risk.

In case turf toe is due to repeated movements, the indications typically start steadily and gradually worsen.

What is the cause?

The injury is called as “turf” toe since it is common among individuals who play on artificial turf. While playing sports on artificial turf, the foot might adhere to the hard surface which results to jamming of the big toe joint. Additionally, wearing less-supportive flexible footwear on artificial turf might be a contributing factor as well.


The indications of turf toe usually include:

  • Pain or discomfort
  • Reduced joint movement
  • Swelling

In case turf toe is due to repeated movements, the indications typically start steadily and gradually worsen. The condition might also be caused by a direct injury resulting to damage of the bone under the cartilage. In case direct injury is the cause, the indications might arise abruptly and worsen over 24 hours.

How is it diagnosed

When deciding on a diagnosis, the surgeon will take the medical history and assess the affected foot.

An X-ray is usually required to rule out any fracture. In some cases, other advanced imaging tests might be useful to determine the right diagnosis.

Management of turf toe

The primary treatment options generally include rest, application of ice, compression and elevation. Additionally, it is recommended to switch to less flexible footwear.

Surgical intervention might be reserved for individuals suffering from severe cases and prolonged pain.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on turf toe is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage this foot injury, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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