Link between injuries and infill weight of artificial turf
When it comes to artificial turf, there’s a simple, but firm analysis related to injuries that Idaho State University researcher Michael Meyers has documented: the greater the weight of the infill used with artificial turf, the fewer the injuries.
Conversely, greater numbers of injuries are associated with artificial turf with lesser weights of infill.
“What we found out it is that it is shockingly linear, that as the infill weight goes down, the injuries just accelerate,” Meyers said.
Meyers, an associate professor in ISU’s Department of Sport Science and Physical Education in the College of Education, studied the turf at 52 high schools participating across four states (Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Montana) analyzing injuries over five seasons from 2010 to 2014.
His study published this summer earned Meyers the first annual STOP (Stop Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries Award from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. This award recognizes top research leading toward significant awareness and change in the prevention of traumatic and overuse injuries in youth sports.
Results of Meyer’s study, which was the first to directly compare football injuries as they relate to infill weight, were picked up by media outlets worldwide, from Reuters to United Press International, and by a wide variety specialty publications and websites.
“I even received a call from India, from someone who wanted to do a story on the turf,” Meyers said.
Synthetic turf infill is generally sand, small rubber particles or mixture of each that are placed between the blades of grass. Meyers study divided turf into four infill categories, based on pound per square foot of infill, 9 pounds or greater, 6 to 8.9 pounds, 3 to 5.9 pounds and less than 3 pounds.
The total number of injuries and the number of minor, substantial and severe injuries was significantly less in the turf with greater than 9 pounds of infill, compared to the other categories. For example there were about 33 percent less total injuries on turf with more than 9 pounds compared to the 6 to 8.9 pound category, and the greater-than-9-pound category had about 46 percent fewer overall injuries compared to the 3 to 5.9 category.
Meyers concluded his study recommending that artificial football fields contain a minimum infill weight of 6 pounds per square foot. This double-blind study looked at 485 variables and 52 categories of injury surveillance.
Meyers noted these conclusions warrant further investigation, and cannot be generalized to other levels of competition beyond those included in the study. This study continues to be ongoing, and Meyers is continuing to collect data.
The full title of Meyers’ study was “Incidence, Mechanisms, and Severity of Game-Related High School Football Injuries across Artificial Turf Systems of Various Infill Weight” and it was published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. The study was partially funded by FieldTurf.