Arguments Against Grass Fields in the NFL
From the grandstands, artificial turf fields look so good it’s hard to believe they could be hazardous. But down on the field, where the cleats meet the turf and the athletes twist against the surface to propel themselves or push back their opponents, looks are irrelevant. When their knees buckle and they’re down on the turf crying for the trainer, the last thing wounded athletes are thinking of is how green the field looks.
Critics of natural grass playing surfaces like to cite the woeful condition of their neighborhood high school field to illustrate the danger to athletes’ ankles and knees. Granted, those fields suffer a lot of abuse, and playing on them after several home games in a row is hazardous. It’s even true that many school districts have replaced their grass fields with artificial turf because they can’t afford the high cost of maintaining perfect grass. But the NFL, for the sake of reducing player injuries, is willing and able to make that continuing investment.
Fans of artificial turf say that grass requires too much maintenance. They contend that keeping fields polished and playable throughout the weather conditions and the strenuous foot traffic of an NFL season requires an expensive professional grounds crew. But the same objection is not made about baseball fields, which are always grass, nicely kept to avoid dangerous patches. To be fair, field turf has to be maintained too, and uneven wear creates dangerous worn down areas that should result in its replacement.
People may also say that grass can get real cold in areas like Minnesota and Green Bay. Yes, this is true, and it is almost like the players are playing on bricks but in Minnesota they just installed nice turf and first game of the year top pick Dalvin Cook tears his ACL cutting non-contact on the turf. Injuries like this are popping up everywhere.
In an article written about the Houston Texans, Texans cornerback D.J. Swearinger talked about the awful field conditions at NRG stadium. They have turf square panels that get put in for every game. They essentially have seams in them as would Astroturf and everyone knows how awful Astroturf was to play on. Swearinger says in the article, “We actually said that the day before (the injury). If somebody was running right here and (they) plant, their ACL or MCL is gone just because of how deep the holes are.” Swearinger is referring to an injury that happened to top pick Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was running for a tackle and got his leg caught in a seam and twisted his knee the wrong way and tore his meniscus.
People may also say that grass can get real cold in areas like Minnesota and Green Bay. Yes, this is true, and it is almost like you are playing on bricks but in Minnesota they just installed nice turf and first game of the year top pick Dalvin Cook tears his ACL cutting non-contact on the turf. Injuries like this are popping up everywhere.
In an article written by NFL.com, they bring up the amount of ACL injuries that occur on turf fields. The number was staggering high when they found the results. The author states,
“The panel started to notice a higher rate of injuries on the new turf in evaluating the data that the NFL compiles each season, Hershman said. Once enough games had been played on the newer surfaces to do a scientific analysis, the panel found that anterior cruciate ligament injuries and a more serious type of ankle sprain occurred at a higher rate that is statistically significant.”
This panel was doing research from every game from the 2002-2008 season and how many ACL injuries occurred during these seasons. Their results were clear cut and they came up with one result. That artificial turf causes more lower extremity injuries than natural grass fields. Their number is so staggering that they say that there is an 88% percent chance that you obtain a knee injury on artificial turf than natural grass.
Opposers may say that these results were too old to our times it has been ten years since they have conducted research on these fields. They also could say times have changed and that player safety is more thought about today and that they would have increased the quality of the fields in order to keep more players healthy. This may be the case but, in an article written in 2018 has stated the same results still occur today. The article says,
A variety of design factors have been hypothesized to play a role, including surface hardness, rotational stiffness, and release torque. These physical characteristics may interact with other environmental factors such as cleat design, surface moisture levels, and ambient temperature. Partially in response to these concerns, manufacturers have continued to refine these products to bring their physical characteristics closer in line to natural grass surfaces, but concerns among players, medical personnel, and the public persist.
The article furthers my point that artificial turf fields are still causing these injury bug problems to players now a days. Like the article says with all these risk factors it just makes the fields way more dangerous then the NFL wants them. It’s almost nerve racking to watch your team play a game because you’re scared that your best players could go down in any play of any game because injuries are that common in the NFL. The biggest factor I see there in the article is rotational stiffness and release torque. I have seen these types of factors come up everywhere in other articles. The feel for turf is so good that people cannot cut on these fields properly and their knees bend the wrong ways and so much stress is being put on these ligaments they eventually just give out. With football players are the biggest and the strongest overall out of most sports so when you add these guys to these sketchy and unqualified fields long term and career ending injuries could occur and that is the last thing the NFL wants.
There is no reason why teams can’t sport some nice Bermuda grass in a dome stadium. It doesn’t make teams cooler to have turf in their billion-dollar dome, what matters is player safety. Players all over the league past and present have questioned player safety with concussions. Knee injuries are the second most occurring injury in the NFL and they require surgery and months of rehab, the time to speak up is now.
NFL panel finds some knee, ankle injuries more common on turf. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d816e77f1/article/nfl-panel-finds-some-knee-ankle-injuries-more-common-on-turf
NRG Stadium’s Playing Surface An ‘Abomination’. (2014, September 09). Retrieved from http://houston.cbslocal.com/2014/09/09/nrg-stadiums-playing-surface-an-abomination/
6 – Risk of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury as a Function of Type of Playing Surface. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780323389624000060