PlaySafe AT Home: Turf Toe

Turf toe is a sprain of the big toe joint usually resulting from excessive upward bending of the big toe joint. The condition can be caused by jamming the toe or from repetitive injury when pushing off repeatedly.

The name “turf toe” comes from the fact that this injury is especially common among athletes who play on artificial turf. Artificial turf is harder and less shock-absorbent than grass. When playing sports on artificial turf, the foot can stick to the hard surface, resulting in jamming of the big toe joint.

Healthcare providers grade these injuries by their severity. In a grade 1 injury, trauma stretches the plantar complex. This causes tenderness and slight swelling. In a grade 2 injury, partial tearing of the complex causes increased tenderness, swelling, and bruising. It also becomes hard to move your toe. In a grade 3 injury, your plantar complex completely tears. This causes severe tenderness, swelling, bruising, and trouble moving your big toe.

The signs and symptoms of turf toe can include pain, swelling, and limited joint movement. Initial treatment includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). If you have a grade 2 injury, RICE and a hard shoe or walking boot might be required to help keep your joint immobilized for a week or so after your injury. A grade 3 injury will need immobilization for several weeks with a walking boot or a cast. If it is a grade 3 injury, surgery might be required as well because there might be a tear of your plantar complex. You also might need surgery if your injury doesn’t heal as expected and causes instability.

If you have turf toe, you will benefit from physical therapy because exercises can help stretch and strengthen your big toe. A change to less-flexible footwear may be necessary. Operative treatment is reserved for individuals with severe cases and prolonged pain.


  1. Turf Toe. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2020, from

  2. Turf Toe. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2020, from

Blog information by: Rachael Hamilton ATC , TL Hanna HS