Many schools and parks around the globe are transitioning from natural grass sports fields to artificial turf. This has sparked a debate as to which surface is the best for athletes to play on. As Steinbrenner becomes the next school to undergo this change, its athletes will be subjected to the artificial turf this upcoming season and for years beyond.
There are a few pros to turf fields, but most of those are in favor of the school who installs it. They are cheaper than grass in the long term, while also providing reliable year-round use. It is always ready-to-go and does not require any growing or maintenance, but the biggest advantage is its durability. For example, in the rain, grass fields will turn to mud, but turf will still be useable in these normally unplayable conditions.
However, most of the cons fall to the athletes. The players who use the field will suffer the consequences of the artificial surface. The first drawback is commonly known as turf burns. It occurs when an athlete dives, slides or falls on the field. The lookalike grass material, synthetic fibers, can cause bad burns on bare skin from the glancing contact. Many players have experienced this, especially from major contact sports like football and soccer.
Another impact artificial turf has on athletes is injuries. UH Sports Medicine found that athletes were 58 percent more likely to sustain an injury during games and practices on turf. Also, a study by The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that players were three times more likely to suffer a PCL injury when playing on turf.
Turf can lead to a hotter playing surface. It is well known that on a clear day, turf can be a 20-degree Fahrenheit increase from normal temperatures. This could result in blisters, slightly melted equipment and more seriously dehydration or heat stroke.
The last and most serious finding about artificial turf is its’ potentially cancerous effects. Most high school forms of turf contain tiny black pellets. More than 20 million tires are recycled and used every year to make these pellets. According to Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, while they do give turf a much-needed cushion and can help to prevent injuries, they also have been proven to cause cancer. For soccer players, goalkeepers are the most likely to be exposed when they dive and save shots. Environment and Human Health Inc. reports that although goalkeepers make up the smallest portion of a soccer team (about 10 percent or less), they have accounted for 68 percent of confirmed leukemia cases on the team.
There are many benefits to turf, the cost, durability, reliability and reduction in need for maintenance all stand out when it comes to the positives of an artificial surface. However, the negatives outweigh the positives. Turf burns, increased chance of injury, a hotter playing surface, and potentially cancerous effects are the primary cons to installing the turf field. As Steinbrenner athletes prepare for the next school year, they will do so preparing for a much different playing surface.
Kyle Messina // Staff Writer