A Natural Debate

Why is this important? Studies have found that players on artificial surfaces are more prone to injury from turf burns. As a result, more players are susceptible to infections, such as the potentially fatal Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, pronounced “mersa”). “The turf burns are the kind of minor skin injury that MRSA can exploit,” Elliot Pellman, medical liaison for the National Football League (NFL), told Bloomberg News in its Dec. 21, 2007 issue.

Grass also can reduce incidents of injury for players. A five-year study of injury rates at eight high schools, published in the October-November issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, determined there was a higher incidence of skin injuries, muscle strains and spasms on artificial turf. For every 10 games played, athletes incurred 15.2 percent of their injuries as a result of playing on artificial turf, versus 13.9 percent on grass.

A Cooling Effect

While it may sound like a minor point, grass keeps an area cooler. In an urban environment, a heat island can form due to temperature-raising features, such as concrete, brick and artificial grass. Heat islands increase the temperature more than the surrounding rural areas, simply because of the artificial surfaces.

Turf temperature also can have a dramatic effect on the players and spectators. A Brigham Young University study documented temperatures on artificial fields to be upwards of 86.5 F hotter than natural grass fields under identical conditions.

The University of California-Davis experienced how brutal an artificial field’s heat can be during the first game of the 2007 season. On an unseasonably hot day, the temperature in the spectator bleachers hit almost 100 degrees, and the field temperature was 15 degrees higher. According to the Sacramento Bee, 85 spectators sought medical attention at the stadium due to the heat, eight of whom were transported to area hospitals. Natural turf makes playing conditions more tolerable in hot weather.

Picking And Choosing

Sometimes it comes down to which surface athletes prefer to play on. The 2006 survey results of 1,500 NFL players showed that 73 percent prefer to play on natural grass. The most common player comment was, “Make all fields grass to prevent injuries.” The majority of players believe artificial infilled fields contribute to injury, soreness and fatigue, and are more likely to shorten their careers and quality of life after football.

Some sports such as Major League Soccer will allow only turfgrass for official games. Others just like the tradition of grass. “They like their kids to come home with grass stains,” Marman notes. “It doesn’t feel like sports unless it’s on natural grass.”

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Related posts:

  1. Natural Grass Or Synthetic Turf?
  2. FieldTurf–Project Portfolio
  3. Tired Of Natural Turf Taking A Timeout?
  4. Bounce Back
  5. Synthetic Turf

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