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Astroturf Essay, Research Paper

Astroturf in Sports

As salaries in sport continue to rise to unimaginable levels, athletes may no longer be seen as just people, but more as expensive liabilities. The health of these athletes become more and more important as it is not only their health which is on the line, but also millions of dollars. Injuries do occur in sports, especially contact sports, but astroturf increases these odds of injury. It will be shown that astroturf causes increased wear on the body and an increased number of severe injuries. Because of this, safer alternatives should be used in the stadiums. Astroturf is an unsafe surface to play on and should not be used by athletes.

The wear on a players body after a game is incredible, so new innovations are always being created to lessen the impact of the sport on the athletes body; better shoes, more protective pads. These things allow the athlete to compete at the same level, but at the end of the game be in better condition to play in the next one. If this is the case, then owners of teams should consider getting rid of their artificial turf. Astroturf increases wear and tear on the body and causes more minor injuries than grass. This wearing down of the body would lead to quicker fatigue and decreased performance.

Ever since astroturf was introduced, people have been complaining about its effects and these complaints are heard even louder in this era. “Athletes blame artificial turf for tendinitis, shin splints, and broken bones.” (Schrier,1987) Warren Sapp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is one of many football players who suffers from the effects of

the astroturf. He says, It feels like you’ve been running on bricks for two miles, your knees are real sore and usually you come out with nine or 10 scrapes and you don’t even know it until you get into the shower and it’s burning like hell.” (Wharton, 1999) Sapp’s pain comes from the fact that running on astroturf is only a little better than running on asphalt. Astroturf is made of nylon fibers which are five-eighths of an inch long stitched into a tightly woven mat. It is then laid over a five-eighths-inch-thick foam pad for cushioning and glued to an asphalt base. (Schrier,1987) So all that separates the athlete from asphalt is less than two inches of rubber.

The other problem which Sapp mentions is “turf burn”. Since nylon resists tearing it also means that superficial wounds are more likely to occur. Though these wounds are not detrimental to the immediate health of the athlete they are painful and do affect the performance and possibly the longevity of the athlete’s career. Steve Young of the San Francisco 49er’s says,

It’s not easy playing on your back patio. If you

wonder what playing on artificial turf is like, go out

there and fall down a couple of times. Then do what we

do – run and scrape across.”(Unknown,1998)

These ill feelings toward artificial turf are felt throughout the NFL. Another player described it as, “sandpaper laid over concrete. A poll done in 1994 revealed that ninety-six percent of more than nine-hundred players said artificial turf leaves them feeling sorer than after playing on grass. Ninety-four percent believe turf is more likely to contribute to an injury and half the players identified a previous injury they believed to be caused by

astroturf. And many of these injuries are serious injuries; there have been many season ending and career ending injuries on turf.

These more serious injuries though are the primary reason why artificial turf should not be used in stadiums. A Cornell University study showed that,

…foot and knee injuries occur on synthetic turf

about 50 percent more than on grass. And when

injuries do occur, they often are more serious and

difficult to heal than those that occur on

grass.(Bernard,1996)

This was the case for three premier players in the NFL this season as Vinny Testaverde, Wayne Chrebet and Jamal Anderson were all severely injured because of Astroturf. The players were severely injured in a situation where there was no contact with other players. In Chrebet’s case two trainers said they had no doubt in their minds that he broke his foot because of the surface and nothing more. (Kirwan,1999) In the former two cases what occurred was “foot lock”. The friction between the shoe and the turf was too great and so as the players tried to cut their foot stayed, but the rest of the body kept moving. This would not have happened on grass Dr. Willibald Nagler of Cornell University explains, “When you play tennis on a soft court, you can slide into the stroke. That takes a lot of stress away from the ankle and knee. Grass allows you to slide too, a tiny bit, but it suffices, the same for football.” (Bernard,1996) So when making a cut, the foot will not give stay planted and the injury will not occur. Nagler goes on to say,

Football on grass results in fewer ligamentous

injuries, and those that do occur are not as severe,

according to the published scientific articles.

Furthermore, synthetic turf may exacerbate existing

injuries, or make healing take longer. (Bernard,1996)

These ligamentous injuries are usually the most severe injuries to occur because of the artificial turf. In an interview with Dr. Wayne Woodland, he explained that, “there is also an increased risk of concussions, and the turf causes many athletes to get turf toe.” Turf toe is a strain to the ligament in the big toe which is not only likely to reoccur, but it can also be a serious injury. Deion Sanders was lost for the end of last years season and was required to have surgery to fix the injury and the Atlanta Falcon’s Chuck Smith missed more than a month this season with the injury.

Even more disturbing than the obvious increase in injuries is that there are at least three deaths and several more cases of paralysis which have been blamed on artificial turf. (Barnes,1999) Players in the NFL are so livid about not wanting to play on artificial turf that in the past, the NFLPA have filed numerous lawsuits trying to get artificial turf labelled a “hazardous substance”. With the advancements of technology, astroturf needs to be replaced with something which is safer and less punishing for the players. In most cases this alternative is grass.

Though, many stadiums will not switch to grass due to the economics of the situation. Grass is expensive to maintain and will limit the income of the stadium by limiting the performances that can be put on there, such as concerts. Many people feel that the controlled environment is needed to allow for a better game. Players are looking

for the safety of grass combined with a controlled environment and low cost. There are now many products on the market which claim to meet these standards. A new company called Fieldturf, in alliance with Nike, has released a product which more closely resembles the texture and response of grass. It is made of synthetic blades and is held up byan artificial dirt composed of silica and rubber that can be made of recycled running shoes. John Ingram, the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ director of athletic facilities says that, “It is the closest thing to natural grass I’ve seen,” (Barnes,1999) The Cornhuskers’ played their entire season on the field and did not have any injuries this year. This coupled with the controllable environment made the players and management happy with the field. This new field may be the wave of the future as not only is it cheaper than grass and astroturf, but it is durable and safe. In a study done by Dr. Bill Barnhill, he found that Fieldturf had less than fifty percent fewer injuries than grass and seventy-five percent fewer than astroturf. Of these injuries, ninety-three percent were minor injuries resulting in fewer than seven days lost. Though some naturalists may not like the idea, the Fieldturf system and other systems soon like it may begin to make grass and even astroturf obsolete saving people money and players from injury.

Injuries to players such as Vinny Testaverde and Jamal Anderson should not occur. Artificial turfs are dangerous and should not be used in any situation. The studies of injuries in professional athletes on grass compared to turf clearly demonstrate the risk that athletes are at when playing on these surfaces. Whether they are small or large, many of them should not happen and would not happen if the surface would have been on grass or the newer, more innovative surfaces. Management should recognize that they are

paying their athletes millions of dollars and should be put in a situation where they will perform and continue to perform to their expectations for many years.


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