A sprain of the ligament around the big toe joint is called “turf toe”. Turf toe was coined in reference to the fact that it tends be a common occurrence in contact sports such as soccer and football. 

What is Turf Toe?

Turf toe happens when you bend your big toe up toward the top of your foot too far. This can cause you to sprain or injure your toe and the ligaments surrounding it.

When you suffer a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, you may experience tenderness, swelling, and some loss of movement around the joint closest to your big toe. Mild cases are not usually treated with surgery or immobilization, so your podiatrist is likely to recommend that you simply rest the affected foot and use ice to minimize any swelling and pain.

Causes and symptoms of turf toe

Turf toe is a common sports injury that can keep you sidelined and off your feet for weeks. It’s a painful, jamming injury that occurs when athletes forcefully put pressure on their big toes and the joints connecting them to their foot bones. Turf toe can happen to athletes in many different sports — but it’s most commonly found in football.

Some of the symptoms include;

  • Pain in the big toe. 
  • A popping noise or sensation when the injury occurs. 
  • Reduced joint movement. 
  • Swelling. 


Your podiatrist may advise pain medication and recommend you give your foot time to heal. If the pain is severe and ongoing, they may recommend:

  • Rest: If you’ve injured yourself in sports or other activities, you may have to stop for a few days or weeks. For example, if your toe is fractured, you’ll need to use crutches and refrain from doing anything too rigorous while it heals. If the injury is more severe, your podiatrist may advise a walking boot.
  • Ice and elevation: The RICE method is easy enough. Rest your leg and keep it elevated at a level higher than your heart, apply ice to your toe, and compress it with a pillow underneath.
  • Stabilization: Tape your toes to prevent over-flexion or over-extension of the joint. This can reduce pain and allow the big and first toes to heal.
  • Orthotics: Over-the-counter inserts and customized orthotics are a must for many athletes. They help provide relief and support for many common conditions like turf toe, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and fallen arches.
  • Surgery: Turf toe injuries will require surgery in many cases. If bone fractures and damage to the soft tissue and toes is severe, a surgical procedure is necessary. Surgery type varies depending on what bones, muscles, and nerves are injured.