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Artificial turf vs natural grass on player injury rates

Whether you’re an adult who has fallen during an outdoor sport or have a child who has taken a spill outside, you know that there is a difference between natural grass and artificial grass.

When you fall on “real” grass, you notice the rocks, dirt, and grass burn. Artificial turfs is developed to protect against serious falls but there is still some comparison to be conducted.

What Affects Injury Rates?

According to Mark Drakos, MD, there are two features of artificial grass and real grass that affect injury rates. The coefficient of friction and the coefficient of restitution. “The coefficient of friction is exactly what it sounds like, how much friction the surface creates,” stated Drakos. If the coating is low people will slide and slip, a higher amount of friction will make a clinging surface. An area with a higher coefficient will cause more ACL injuries because their feet will stick to the artificial turf. “Similarly, a higher coefficient of restitution will, in general, cause more injuries,” stated Drakos. “Basically, the coefficient of restitution means how hard the surface is and is measured with a G-max value. For instance, concrete has a very high G-max value. Consequently, certain grass and turf fields have higher G-max values, which lead to a higher rate of concussions and other contact injuries,” he explained.

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Is There a Big Difference?

Despite the many advancements manufacturers have taken with artificial grass, the effect on injury rates is still very controversial. There is a huge difference in playability and texture but the two factors above, coefficient of friction and coefficient of restitution still have high injury rate statuses. Natural grass fields are not a free ride from injuries either. Playing on real grass that is not up-to-par and properly maintained can create dangerous situations.

Today, flawless field conditions for both playability and injury prevention is still undetermined. The best news is that developers are working every day to make artificial turf the best and safest possible. A study conducted in 2010, when artificial turf was still up-and-coming, found that artificial turf may be safer than natural grass with related to injuries altogether. It also stated that there was no significant difference in knee injuries between the two surfaces of fake and real grass. In 2013, another study was conducted and found that there were fewer total injury incidences and a lower rate of substantial injuries on artificial turf.

The Answer

All research conducted are still unclear on answers of which grass is truly the safest for sports players. An ideal way to decrease injuries on artificial turf would be to wear turf shoes or cleats made specifically for artificial grass. The latest generation of artificial turf features a bottom layer of sand, a middle layer of sand and rubber and a top layer of rubber pieces mixed into long, lush fibers which shown a much better result for injuries.

Any athlete that plays on a field knows that the type of sport and weather condition are the two leading factors in injuries, whether the sport is played on artificial turf or natural grass.

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