Why NFL Teams Should Move On From Turf

Players gather around injured person in first half of an NFL game between the Jets and 49ers On September of 2020. (AP photo/CoreySipkin)
Players gather around injured person in first half of an NFL game between the Jets and 49ers On September of 2020. (AP photo/Corey Sipkin)

Turf or grass has become a big argument in the NFL as of late. With all of the injuries that have been happening, a good amount seem to be from the turf itself. Half of the league has gone away from the turf fields while half have not. Due to all of the money that is flowing into the NFL now, it might be time for some teams and owners to invest in their fields.

What is Turf?

Turf is commonly made up of base material. Those materials are granulated crumb rubber produced from used tires, flexible plastic pellets, sand, and rubber-coated sand. A combination of sand and crumb rubber is sometimes used. A lot of stadiums made the change to astroturf when it was first introduced around the 1990s. They did this then as it seemed to save injuries and help the game become faster. As technology has been growing, we are getting more concerned about player safety. People are starting to realize that maybe turf is not the safest to play on. There have been a lot of issues that have started to pop up recently that should make NFL owners and coaches want to change. It started out with Astroturf, but then Astroturf was so hard underneath it caused many devastating injuries, especially to the knees. Along with that, it also shortened if not ruined many careers. The NFL then made the change semi recently to FieldTurf. Even with the change, today the injuries continue to be more on turf.

Turf Monster

While everyone does love to see a faster game, the turf is starting to become an issue for the teams that have yet to move on. Injuries just seem to happen with more regularity on these fields. The biggest injuries we see are to the knees, joints, and head. With the surface being harder than the grass options, bouncing your head off the ground has added slightly more concussions. The knees are way worse for turf, and the cutting back and forth overtimes just kills the knees and they can give at any point.

The worst part about this stat is it goes over all injuries, not even focusing on just the lower body. While this is just a four year sample size, you can already see that the injuries seem to be more on the synthetic surfaces instead of ones like grass or more natural. This year alone off with no research I can remember about three to four non contact injuries in 2022 and all happened to be on turf, one being Odell Beckham Jr. in the Superbowl last year. Players are coming out more and more now with their displeasure after these injuries. Even while these numbers seem close too, there are definitely more issues when it comes to the lower body with turf than there is with other types of fields.

The biggest issues with the turf seems to be the cutting and planting. There was a guy who I cannot remember, but he got his ankle stuck and jammed into the turf so a basic tackle forced it to almost snap. There are players running who just grab their knee mid cut and go down. Sterling Shepard was the most recent to show this. There are some turf fields as well that seem to get more people than others. For example, MetLife Stadium seems to be a turf field that has had some of these injuries. While yes injuries can happen in any game on any field because it is football, the turf just seems to make it a bit more possible.

How Change Could Work

At the end of the day, the biggest issue with the fields is care. While it still is the NFL, there seems to be teams that do not seem to take care of their fields as nicely as others. The hard thing will be that if all stadiums are grass or natural, teams will have to go to some extra lengths money wise and care wise to make it work to start out. With how rich most owners are, in the long run this would be a great idea. With how modern the world is getting now as well, more stadiums might use the “rollout” method where they have different grasses or surfaces to play on.

Why Teams Should Move On

When it comes to the turf area in the NFL, it might be time to move on. With more science pointing to the health benefits of other surfaces, it might be time for turf to go. While it is still football and injuries happen, we want to keep the players safe. The way the stats are looking now, it might be time for NFL teams to start moving towards grass and natural fields. Player safety is one of the biggest focuses of the NFL. A way to help with this is to maybe look into how to make the playing fields more safe for those teams still with turf.

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