Grass Vs. Artificial Turf

Health |

Inhale the scent of a freshly cut grass field. Run on this same surface and feel the give as the ground accommodates your weight and direction. Slide in the puddles and avoid divots as you navigate the playing surface.

Or appreciate the sheen from the artificial turf as you suffer a rug burn with your skin abutting the ground. Experience the ache in your legs after running on what sometimes feels like concrete. Fear the moment when you must cut and pivot and your cleat remains in place as your leg twists and your knee pops.

Such is the dilemma of natural grass vs. Astroturf. Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., is making the transformation to natural grass for the year 2000. The stadium has had artificial turf since it opened in 1976. This conversion is not by chance. The players have been beaten up on the artificial surface with injury after injury: torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, torn Achilles tendon, season ending mid-foot sprain, the infamous turf toe, skin abrasion on top of skin abrasion.

Football, soccer and baseball share such facilities. Some baseball players play about 100 games a year on artificial turf. While it might be great for the hitter as the ball scoots into the outfield, for the fielder it can wear down even the strongest players.

Injuries occur from a combination of many factors. Playing-surface type and condition are among those risk factors. An NFL study of the type of playing surface and the occurrence of knee sprain injuries from 1980 to 1989 was published in the early 1990s. The respective knee sprain injury rates for natural grass and Astroturf were .20 and .22 injuries-per-team game.

When looking at specific positions and plays, for example, there is a statistically higher injury rate for MCL injuries for Astroturf when linemen sustained injuries.

The data that relates to punts and kickoffs demonstrated a statistically significant higher injury rate for ACL sprains on Astroturf. Overall, there is a tendency for Astroturf to be associated with increased risk of knee sprains and MCL and ACL injuries under specific conditions.

The jury remains out, but the trend towards more injuries on artificial turf continues to grow. Even though field maintenance is much easier, the injury rate is not worth the compromise. More studies released on the subject would certainly be enlightening. We hope to see them soon.