Natural Turfgrass Reduces Athlete Injuries Compared to Synthetic
When you think of ways to prevent athlete injuries, what comes to mind? Maybe better protective equipment, restricting practice time to avoid overexertion, or more training on proper body mechanics? While all of these things are important, there’s one significant way to prevent athlete injuries that is right under your nose and feet! It’s natural turfgrass. There are many advantages of natural vs. synthetic turf grass in sports: reduced injuries and a safer playing environment.
Athletes can sustain a variety of injuries while playing on synthetic turf. Some include:
- Burns, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke
- Increased lower extremity injuries
- Physical exhaustion related to fatigue
- Increased concussions
- Increased non-contact injuries
- Exposure to known carcinogens
- MRSA and other bacterial infections
Choosing the right turfgrass also depends on the athletic venue.
Synthetic turf grass can considerably raise the surface temperature, while natural turfgrass helps reduce the playing surface temperature.
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine confirms that 16% lower extremity injuries occur in athletes playing on synthetic turf grass than on natural turfgrass. Additionally, that same study confirmed a whopping 27% increase in non-contact injuries on synthetic turf grass versus natural turfgrass. These increases in injuries are likely due to the inflexibility of synthetic turf grass and its tendency not to release athletic cleats as easily as its natural counterpart. The lack of flexibility in synthetic turf grass surfaces is also suspected of causing more player concussions.
Research also suggests that the physical exertion of playing one game on a synthetic turf grass surface is roughly equivalent to playing three games of the same length on a natural surface. When this effect is compounded over several years, it shows that almost 90% of surveyed NFL players in 2010 said that they felt that playing on synthetic surfaces would shorten their careers.
The crumb rubber used to infill synthetic turf grass surfaces has been shown to increase exposure to heavy metals and other known carcinogens. In addition, synthetic turfgrass that isn’t cleaned and sanitized properly can harbor and transmit superbugs like MRSA. Bacteria grows easier in humid climates like here in Florida. With this, the synthetic surface would need more cleaning.
Using natural turfgrass can reduce the number of injuries athletes sustain and therefore reduce liability.