The heated debate over whether or not natural or artificial turfs are safer for athletes has been a hot one for many years, and studies have provided evidence to support both. With increasing awareness of head injuries in contact sports and diagnoses of concussions and their long-term damage, scientists, athletic officials, and athletes alike want to ensure they are doing everything they can to increase their safety. So, what do you, as an athletic director or athlete living in the Indiana area, do?
Artificial Turf and Why It’s So Popular
Artificial turf was introduced in 1965 when ChemGrass was installed at the Houston Astrodome to replace the dying grass in the first domed stadium. It was later rebranded as AstroTurf. Artificial turf can be defined as a surface of synthetic fibers made to look like natural grass. Schools and athletic fields around the country including here in Indiana like the low-key maintenance and flexibility of artificial turf. It is easier to maintain, doesn’t require water, fertilization or pesticides, and is usable regardless of the weather. It doesn’t freeze in the winter or thin out in the summer like natural grass. Most importantly, it is comparatively less expensive. As of 2020, 12 out of the 31 stadiums used in the National Football League were made of artificial turf, with one more being built. Artificial turf is also used for dozens of fields throughout major league baseball and major league soccer.
No conclusive studies have been done to date that can rule out one type of grass over the other. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown conflicting conclusions regarding injuries and health. According to a 2012 study on college athletes, more college football players suffered ACL injuries on artificial turf than grass this year. In 2011, a study done by Justin Shaginaw, an athletic trainer for the US Soccer Federation, had a higher frequency of ankle injuries on artificial turf for football, soccer, and rugby players. Between 2018 and 2019, physician-researchers from University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the University Hospitals Sports Medicine Institute analyzed data. They found that athletes were 58 percent more likely to sustain an injury during athletic activity on artificial turf. On the other hand, a 2010 study on college football players and a 2013 study on female college soccer players showed a higher frequency of all injuries on grass than on turf.
Friction and Surface Hardness
As you can see, there is conflicting evidence supporting both sides. Many scientists believe there are two features of turf and grass that affect injury rates: the coefficient of friction and the coefficient of restitution. The coefficient of friction is the amount of friction created. The coefficient of restitution basically means how hard the surface is. It’s a no-brainer that low coefficient friction levels may cause athletes to slip, but high levels may cause more ACL injuries because there is not as much give. And harder surfaces, such as concrete, may lead to a higher level of concussions and other contact injuries. So, in conclusion, the harder the surface and less give it has, the more dangerous it is.
So What Can You, As An Indiana Athletic Field Director or Athlete Do?
Proper Equipment and Shoe wear
Well, for starters, because we know that greater traction increases the rate of injury, wearing shoes with cleats explicitly made for artificial turf may help. And, for those at higher risk of ACL injuries, don’t just play in shoes made specifically for the type of turf you are playing on; practice in them as well. Always wear safety pads, guards, mouth guards, protective eye gear, helmets, and other proper equipment necessary for your specific sport.
Always Inquire About the Athletic Field’s Maintenance Program
Parents, coaches, and athletic field directors should always ask how the field is maintained before any playing time is permitted to make sure athletes and students have the appropriate foot attire, helmets, and proper equipment. And scientists and researchers must continue to study the impact turf quality, shoe wear, and other factors have on preventing injuries.
Get Professional Help With Your Athletic Field Maintenance
When it comes to installing artificial or natural turf or help with maintaining it, don’t try doing it alone. Call in the professionals. Utilize the knowledge and training that lawn and landscaping professionals have and invest in a certified, insured, experienced company with a good reputation. Doing so will help ensure your grass is kept up to par, filled in, without compacted soil or holes, and always at its best. Maintaining your field will go a long way in ensuring your athletes, students, or team’s safety.
For All Your Athletic Field Needs, Hire the Professionals at RZ Sports Turf!
At RZ Sports Turf, we believe in a safe and healthy playing environment. RZ Sports Turf can help by improving the existing condition of your athletic fields. If you are located in the Indiana area and your school, university, municipality, or association’s athletic field needs renovations or repairs, we are your go-to solution. We offer over 30 years of experience installing, growing, and managing turfgrass, baseball infield skins, and conducting lawn renovations. Drainage an issue on your athletic field? We also specialize in a specialized drainage system called the Built-Up Sand-Capped Athletic Field Drainage System.