The type and the quality of a playing surface affects athlete safety and performance but there is little scientific and non-bias information available to draw any kind of conclusion.

Grass gives—is that important?

It stands to reason that a natural grass field that has a dense cover of live grass will be safer than a natural grass field full of bare soil and pot-holes but we know little about the injuries sustained on natural versus synthetic, or even old synthetic versus the newer generation synthetic surfaces.

Many years ago I heard a talk by a soil physicist that talked of player safety on natural grass fields versus synthetic fields because “grass gives”. In other words, an athlete plants a foot in the grass and when they are tackled or turning, their foot will slide out a chunk of turf, rather than lock in place and cause an injury like an ACL. While this suggested scenario may make sense, actually recording this and correlating an ACL injury to a particular surface has been difficult, and until now, non-existent.

New data collection and research studies will offer greater insight into this issue. Firstly, sports governing bodies like the NFL and NCAA have started taking data. For example, the NCAA has started including “surface type” as part of their Injury Surveillance System.

New research studies are being conducted by turfgrass and medical professionals to look at surface type and how that may correlate with injury. One recent study, funded by an NFL Charities Foundation grant, evaluated playing surface components in relation to lower extremity injury risk.
This item was posted originally by Pamela Sherratt on