LONDON FOOT & ANKLE SURGERY
Mr Andy Roche MSc FRCS (Tr & Orth) Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon specialising
in Foot and Ankle Surgery and Reconstruction

Turf Toe

What Is a turf toe?

This injury became prevalent in the USA as American footballers wore lightweight boots and were playing on artificial “turf” pitches. It is an injury to the big toe, when the big toe bends backwards excessively and soft tissues around the big toe metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint tear.

Turf Toe

What sort of accident or injury can result in a Turf Toe injury?

It occurs when the big toe is bent over severely, over-extended and the foot is driven into or caught in the ground. It is usually an injury of athletes such as rugby or football players. 

What are the symptoms?

After the typical mechanism of injury the toe is painful and can swell up quite a bit and bruise all around the toe.

What should you do if you suspect an injury?

It is worth getting assessed within a few days of the injury to ensure that there is no other injury present such as a toe fracture or Lisfranc fracture. Clinical examination by a specialist Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon is required.

How are these injuries accurately diagnosed? 

An X-Ray of the foot will assist in making the diagnosis by specifically looking at the small bones under the big toe called the sesamoids, which can move from their normal position as a result of the injury or even fracture. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be important to accurately determine the soft tissue injury often seen with a turf toe injury.

How can a turf toe injury be treated?

If the soft tissue injury around the big toe joint is a simple sprain then treatment with rest, ice compression and elevation with gradual resumption of activity can be successful. If the soft tissue injury is more severe such as in a tendon rupture, bone fracture or ligament tear then surgery may be warranted to restore the normal tissue structure.

How long can it take to recover? 

The return to activity or full sports can depend on the severity or degree of soft tissue injury at the time of injury. Simple sprains of the joint can recover quicker than more significant injury of the tissues or tendons. Full recover is likely in the majority of more severe injuries by 4-6 months. 

What are the usual outcomes?

In over 85% of sportspersons a return to full sporting activity can be expected. Some intermittent symptoms may persist however including minor toe stiffness and swelling.

  • Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS
  • The Lister Hospital, Chelsea
  • Fortius Clinic
  • Bupa Cromwell Road