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Blog Article

Are the Taylor Swift fans right? Is artificial turf dangerous for NFL players?

Editorial Team
Are the Taylor Swift fans right? Is artificial turf dangerous for NFL players?
October 10, 2023

Kansas City, KS

On October 8, Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs tight end who is in a rumored relationship with American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, was injured in a Chiefs’ game against the Minnesota Vikings.

At first look, the injury looked pretty brutal, as Kelce laid on the field gripping his ankle for a brief second. He went to the locker room and got it checked out, and ultimately returned to the game, and even caught a touchdown pass as the Chiefs went on to win 27-20 in a thriller.

Kelce’s injury happened on an artificial turf field, and many NFL fans have blamed turf fields or the many brutal leg injuries in 2023 that have put star players out for the season, such as Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb, and Trevon Diggs.

The Swifties, who have been tracking Kelce very closely since the time the superstar made an appearance to two of Kelce’s games in a row and was spotted in the box right next to Kelce’s mom, were quick to catch on and came out firing on all cylinders against artificial turf after Kelce went down. 

One tweet said: 

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There were more:

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And another with the hashtag #Swiftiesagainstturf:

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So, the question is, are Taylor Swift fans right? Is artificial turf dangerous for NFL players? According to independent research, the answer is yes, and yes. Researchers state artificial turf is not only dangerous for NFL players but also for school children, college athletes, the environment, and everyone who lives or works near artificial turf fields. Additionally, the National Football League Players Association has repeatedly asked the NFL to replace artificial turf fields with natural grass (see here, here, here and here).

Why is artificial turf bad for humans and the environment?

Comprising plastic grass blades forming 'tufts', a backing material, adhesive, and supplemented by ground rubber or sand infill, artificial turf's structure plays a crucial role in player experiences and associated risks.

In the past, players have reported a range of issues, including discomfort from the heat (with synthetic turf temperatures often 20-30°C hotter than natural grass surfaces), frequent abrasive burns leading to a 7-fold increase in MRSA infection risk compared to players without abrasions, increased strain on knees and joints due to the ground's hardness, and severe non-contact injuries often caused by cleats getting trapped in the artificial turf filaments. These concerns have gained traction in recent years, and they are just some of the problems players face. Others relate to health risks associated with toxins found in artificial turf and the commonly used crumb rubber infill.

Take a deep dive into the debate between natural turf vs artificial turf by reading this comprehensive article that stitches all the research together: Natural grass vs artificial turf: Everything sports organizations need to know about player safety, injury risk and, and legal implications

Below, we discuss just one study mentioned in the article.

A comprehensive study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019, found significant differences in injury rates between synthetic and natural turf surfaces among elite NFL athletes. Analyzing data from all 1,280 NFL regular season games played between 2012 and 2016, with 555 on artificial turf and 725 on natural grass, researchers identified 4,801 lower body injuries affecting 2,032 NFL players.

The results present a compelling case against synthetic turf. Players who participated on synthetic turf faced a 16% higher injury rate per play in comparison to those on natural grass. Moreover, the study found if the injury rate on natural turf was applied to the games played on synthetic turf, 319 fewer lower extremity injuries would be expected. The researchers' findings provided support for the distinction between synthetic turf and natural grass in their capacity to form divots that release cleats from the surface. The absence of such a shoe-surface release mechanism on synthetic turf emerged as a crucial factor contributing to the increased risk of injuries on that surface. This association remained consistent across various injury categories, including knee and ankle/foot injuries.

Particularly noteworthy were non-contact/surface contact injuries, where a significant increase was observed in ankle and foot injuries, resulting in an average of 8 days missed from football participation. The risk of all lower extremity injuries on synthetic turf was found to be 27% higher compared to natural grass. For knee injuries, the risk increased by 46%, while for ankle and foot injuries, it rose to 68%. Notably, injuries causing an 8-day absence from football activity saw the risk of ankle and foot injuries on synthetic turf soaring to 103% higher than natural grass. In essence, the study's findings suggest that playing on synthetic turf is associated with a significantly elevated risk of lower extremity injuries, particularly non-contact/surface contact injuries close to the playing surface.

This study is extremely significant because it uses the NFL’s own internal injury data.

Capillary Hydroponics: Grow natural grass that has all the benefits of artificial turf

The good news is that there is a viable alternative to artificial turf that provides sports leagues with all the benefits of natural grass while retaining the advantages of artificial turf, such as durability and low maintenance. This solution is Capillary Hydroponics.

“CapillaryFlow and its founder Martin Sternberg, CGCS, has invented the first ever hydroponic system to grow turfgrass, and it will change the way we build and manage turf in the future.” These are the words of Dr Thom Nikolai, one of the world’s leading scientists in turfgrass.

To read more about Capillary Hydroponics, click here.


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