The likelihood of a greater incidence of injury occurring due to a synthetic grass surface has been noted. This has been due to the increased speed made possible on synthetic grass which results in an increased probability of higher collision forces between players, resulting in increased severity of injuries.
However, the blame of this increase in injury incidence can’t be placed solely on the artificial grass surface on which it occurs. There is an interrelationship between the synthetic grass surface, the footwear that is being worn and the modern-day training programs. All factors combine to create an athlete who is more mobile and more capable of exerting damaging force.
Further studies have also shown that the frequency with which athletes suffer injuries does not change depending on the surface they are playing on. Instead, the type of injury sustained on each surface changes.
We have already spoken about the incidence of turf toe picked up on synthetic grass, so we will have a brief look at a few other dangers.
There is more torque, traction and velocity experienced on synthetic grass surfaces which can lead to a greater incidence of muscle strains and spasms. On the other hand, natural grass is more slippery, is prone to becoming potholed or can be become much harder underfoot than synthetic grass will ever become. There are more concussions experienced on natural grass surfaces than synthetic grass.
Synthetic grass fields can become much hotter in high temperatures than natural grass fields. In fact, studies have shown that synthetic grass surfaces can get at least 10 to 15 degrees hotter than natural grass. This increases the risk that the athletes competing on the synthetic grass surfaces will become more quickly dehydrated, a factor that must be monitored closely.
Because you get more torque on a synthetic grass surface, there is a greater chance of experiencing a twisting related injury. As the body turns sharply and the cleats in the boots grip tight, you lose the ability to take the necessary divot that you would on natural grass that would save ligament or bone injuries. The traction you get on synthetic grass can be seen, therefore, as both a positive and a negative factor.
More recent makes of synthetic grass have attempted to address the issue and some brands have been made that do now give a little. However, it still requires less torque to twist free after a cleated boot has been planted on the ground. What often happens, though, is only a small part of the boot is usually planted on the ground at any one time and it has been found that the force needed to twist free on both types of surfaces is about the same.
One danger that you should be aware of with synthetic grass that you won’t get with natural grass is that of turf burn. This is an unseen danger, could be quite significant and is the topic of the next post.