Ac academic study has revealed that synthetic sports fields can significantly increase the risk of concussion, when compared to a natural grass surface.
The study, presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition, highlights the importance of considering the safety of the playing surface itself in athletics.
Ian Chun, a medical student at the University of Hawai’i, conducted the study. He compared the impact deceleration of manikins on natural grass and synthetic turf high school football fields. The findings showed that synthetic turf fields had a greater impact on an athlete’s ability to slow down, indicating an increased risk of injuries due to contact with the playing surface.
The study emphasizes the need to consider the spaces where we play and their impact on athlete safety, according to Chun. Synthetic turf fields, although favored for their lower maintenance costs, have been associated with ankle and knee injuries, and now, a potentially higher risk of concussions.
“The emphasis on player safety is especially important for children as injuries sustained in developing adolescence may have longer-term impacts and unforeseen consequences,” Chun said.
He continued: “Injuries in sports have always been an accepted consequence of play and competition but in recent years the national discourse around sports safety has changed. Armed with injury prevention strategies and better engineered safety equipment, sports continue to be exciting for players and audiences with the added benefit of better health outcomes for our athletes. The emphasis on player safety is especially important for children as injuries sustained in developing adolescence may have longer-term impacts and unforeseen consequences.”
Chun compared the hardness of natural grass or synthetic turf high school football fields by attaching sensors to a manikin that could measure the rate of deceleration as it hit the ground and compared the decelerating force between fields. He found that synthetic turf football fields had a greater impact deceleration compared to natural grass fields, presenting an increased risk of injury due to contact with the playing surface. While more research is needed to assess all the risks of different playing surfaces, this could help guide sports management decisions and create safer playing environments, he said.
“Our findings show that when we consider safety in sports, we need to widen our view to include the spaces where we play,” Chun said.