If you’re old enough you might remember the original AstroTurf, and by all means plenty of blame can be placed on it for athletic injuries.
Things have changed dramatically and the 3rd and 4th generation synthetic turf fields that are getting harder to tell from natural grass. Synthetic turf fields are used in the NFL, MLB, MLS, and even international soccer. Despite these facts, many athletes still want to blame the synthetic turf for their injuries. But are there any facts behind the belief that more injuries occur on synthetic turf than natural grass?
Research has shown that as the amount of friction increases there is an increase in the rate of lower extremity injuries. This means that having too much traction on the field surface, is likely to result in a great chance of injuries. The common thought is that turf has more traction than grass and therefore we will see more injuries on turf.
Increased amount of injuries from artificial turf:
A 2011 study which looked at soccer, football and rugby injuries determined that there was an increased chance of ankle injuries on synthetic grass. In 2012, another study looking at NCAA football injuries showed an increased risk of injuries to the ligaments of the knee on synthetic turf. Finally, a 2013 study looking at Portuguese soccer players determined a higher rate of lower extremity injuries on artificial turf during matches vs. training.
There is Not a Significant Difference in Injury Rates:
A 2010 study looking at collegiate football injuries showed that artificial turf may actually be safer than natural grass for sports-related injuries. This study also concluded that there was no major difference in the instances of knee injuries on the two different surfaces. Another study in 2013 looked at injury rates between natural grass and synthetic turf in female collegiate soccer players. This study actually showed a significantly lower total injury incidence rate and a lower rate of substantial injuries on synthetic grass playing surfaces. This same study also showed no difference between natural and synthetic grass in regard to knee injuries.
Since research fails to give us a clear, defined answer regarding injury rates on artificial turf, the question remains, “ which is safer?” We know that as traction increases, so does the risk of injuries. Making sure you have the right shoes or cleats for the surface you are playing or practicing on will give you the proper amount of traction, and reduce the likelihood of injury.
This line of thinking can also be applied to grass regarding increased traction and increased injury rates. Unfortunately, there may be a decrease in performance as shoes with less traction may cause players to slip.
For those participating in athletics on synthetic turf, maybe the type of shoe you practice and play in should be a consideration. So don’t just choose your cleats because they look cool, but instead pick the ones that are suited for the playing surface you’re using.
If you have questions, or are considering having synthetic grass installed for an athletic field, contact the team at Pacific Grass & Turf today! We can help you design a safe, low-maintenance athletic field or court to suit any sport, abilities, and environment.