Just a few decades ago, most professional sports were played on an “au naturale” surface. No, we’re not referring to the players, but to the surface -- from baseball to football, the majority of sports were played on trimmed and well-maintained natural grass.
Today, things are very different. A huge range of sports teams, from top NFL teams to popular field hockey teams, play their games on synthetic turf. Many of the world’s most acclaimed and stadiums have made a permanent switch to sports turf, usually with fantastic results.
To most people, the key advantages of sports turf are practical -- it’s easier to care for, requires less maintenance and takes the randomness of natural materials out of sports. But it also has a range of benefits for players, from simplifying play to improving sports performance.
Below, we’ve shared some quotes and data from industry experts about the sports performance benefits of artificial turf. We’ve also looked at a range of data points to find out just how much of an impact sports turf can have on performance as a playing surface.
Sports Turf Helps Improve the Safety of Sports
Developed in the 1960s, artificial turf first entered the world of professional sports when it was installed at the Houston Astrodome in 1966. Today, it’s used by thousands of athletic teams in the United States alone, plus tens of thousands more internationally.
One of the biggest benefits of sports turf is that it improves the safety of sports. Games played on artificial turf surfaces tend to produce fewer injuries than games played on natural grass -- a reality that’s made turf a favorite not just of stadium owners, but of team coaches and doctors.
Part of the injury-prevention benefit of artificial turf is its padded texture. Modern artificial turf is designed using an interior “infill,” which uses a combination of drainage layer, artificial fibers and shock-absorbing pads to make impacts less intense.
This is explained in more detail in ASME’s excellent write up-on the safety benefits of modern sports turf surfaces.
The end result is a surface that’s comfortable and supportive for players, allowing for fast, agile movement, yet less harsh than natural grass. This means that when players are tackled or fall, their risk of sustaining a concussion or severe bodily injury is significantly lower.
Sports Turf Allows for Faster, More Exciting Action
The second advantage of sports turf is that it allows for faster, more agile movement, allowing for more exciting games and more precise movements from players.
In a study of 40-yard dash speed from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, turf and natural grass both produced similar times as Division II college football players completed 40-yard timed dashes.
The players averaged 5.33 seconds on natural grass and 5.34 seconds on turf -- times that are almost identical.
But when it came to agility, turf moved ahead of its natural competitor. The athletes achieved times of 4.49 seconds for the proagility shuffle on artificial turf; on natural grass, the average time was a significantly slower 4.64 seconds.
Graydon L. Gains, the lead researcher of the study, noted that the increase in dash speed is a significant improvement, stating that the turf represented “a 3.0 percent faster agility time” than natural grass.
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Searching for sports turf for your educational facility, training ground or sports arena? Our range of sports turf includes a range of options designed to help athletes enjoy peak performance and optimal speed, all with the durability required to keep up with rigorous game day wear.