Latest Soccer News on Players, Teams & Scandals
Soccer players around the world may have noticed a shift in recent years of their fields changing from grass to turf. Many of these turfs boast their ability to synthesize the same amount of roll, bounce and shock absorption found in grass fields. But what many soccer players are wondering, if indeed the turf is trying to imitate grass, why make the switch and how does it heighten or lessen injuries?
Many players probably remember the first time they’d ever played a game on turf, likely because they remember the alien feel of the field and, most likely, the precipitant loss. Since its first installation in the 1960s at the Houston Astrodome, turf has been trying to find more and more of a simulacrum towards natural grass. Why then wouldn’t they simply use grass? What benefits does a turf field have?
The installation of turf fields was likely made due to the lower maintenance costs associated with the field, the increased lifespan of the field and the environmental effects. Or, in other words, the grass is always green and never needs be cut or watered, never needs to be sprayed with pesticides, fungicides or other hazardous chemicals; all of which, combined with the superior drainage systems used in turf and the lack of emissions caused by lawnmowers, trimmers, aerators or the use of paint, have resulted in a much greener solution for sports fields. From an owner’s standpoint, the benefits of turf are obvious. But what about the players; how does turf effect their play and safety?
When in its early stages, artificial turf was known for the carpet-burns often resulting from sliding or tackling. The recent incarnations of turf have made a significant pushes towards a more natural grass feel and have cut down drastically on the carpet-burn injuries. But what about other injuries?
According to a study by Williams, Hume and Kara in Sports Medicine (2011, vol. 41), ankle injuries seem to occur more frequently on artificial turf with knee injuries coming up inconclusive, which is strange as many of the purported benefits of turf are the even surface (no gouges, dirt patches or holes found in many grass fields). There is also the possible respiratory damage, or exacerbation towards conditions like asthma, precipitant from breathing in rubber dust and particles.
When considering the potential dangers of turf versus grass scientists and doctors look at two factors, the coefficient of friction and the coefficient of restitution.
The coefficient of friction refers to “how sticky or “grabby” the surface is and how much force it will take for a planted foot to slip” (http://www.hss.edu/conditions_artificial-turf-sports-injury-prevention.asp). They found that higher coefficients resulted in more ACL injuries; many of the older versions of turf had a high coefficient, but that has gone down in the newer generations. The coefficient of restitution refers to the shock absorption of the field and “is measured by using the G-Max value where one “G” represents one unit of gravity” (ibid). Surfaces with higher G-Max values, like concrete or asphalt, have less shock absorption and are more likely to yield concussions. Grass has a low G-Max value and the new turf is right around those levels.
Turf will likely always be reinventing itself, not just to get it closer to grass, but to make it as efficient, eco-friendly and comfortable, and the latest generations have made serious strides since AstroTurf first appeared almost fifty years ago. What’s certain is that turf is gaining popularity not just in soccer but in all sports, and requested, for the first time, not by owners but by players.
About the author: Earl Reidlen has written poignant sports related articles for many years. When he’s not writing, you can find him reviewing tennis court windscreens or working on his forthcoming book.