The NFL is one of the most lucrative businesses on the entire planet. Billions are made and spent in a calendar year, yet they allow their players to play on artificial turf, which has proven to be more dangerous to the players, risking everything to go out and entertain us.
The data supports the anecdotes you’ll hear from me and other players: artificial turf is significantly harder on the body than grass. Based on NFL injury data collected from 2012 to 2018, not only was the contact injury rate for lower extremities higher during practices and games held on artificial turf, NFL players consistently experienced a much higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on turf compared to natural surfaces. Specifically, players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass. JC Tretter - NFLPA
Once these reports started growing in the late 2010s, the NFL tried to combat this data during the latest collective bargaining agreement negotiations by stating that in 2021, the injury rate was the same on turf as it was on grass. They tried to pick out the only year the pace wasn't drastically different, and players weren't happy. Unfortunately, the CBA was accepted without requiring all teams to return to a regular grass field.
"Our league stats don't see issues with the type [of] surface that we have [at AT&T Stadium] as opposed to natural grass," Jones said. "We don't see issues. No facts bear that out." Jerry Jones quote from a Kevin Seifert article on ESPN
What Is The Difference Between Turf & Grass
It's hard to understand why turf is worse to play on if you aren't a professional athlete. I guess 99% of the readers aren't, and this quote could help understand that.
Biomechanical testing of various football cleats on a variety of athletic surfaces has clearly shown differences between natural and synthetic turf in terms of the ability to create a divot, thereby releasing the cleat at loading magnitudes and rates generated during elite athletic competition [4-5]. Synthetic surfaces lack the ability to release a cleat in a potentially injurious overload situation and therefore can generate much greater shear force and torque on the foot and throughout the lower extremity. The Sports Medicine Review
So, with this information, it makes sense why NFL players would rather play on grass instead of turf. How much more should the NFL owners need to make the switch on this issue?
Why Wouldn't The NFL Switch Back To Grass
Now, most fans are probably thinking, if the players don't feel safe on this artificial turf, why are they opt not to do that? Turf makes these stadiums more attractive to other venues than just the football team, which means money can pour in from these. There are other reasons like these:
The decision to install synthetic turf is driven by its multiuse capabilities, ease of upkeep, and controllability of playing conditions regardless of most weather conditions. The potential for increased injury risk must be balanced against these desirable aspects of synthetic versus natural turf surfaces . The Sports Medicine Review
This boils down to NFL owners caring more about their facility's convenience and versatility than about the player's level of safety when they step onto the field. Forget about the science of all this; it seems like more big-name players are dealing with lower body injuries that affect seasons or careers.
Did The Turf Affect The Rodgers Injury?
Metlife was rocking when Rodgers ran out of that tunnel, but do Jets fans wish they had a regular Grass field? It is possible that the grass would've popped up when his foot was planted, but I'm not sure, even though David Bakhtiari thinks it has everything to do with it. It appears they will be happening to accommodate the World Cup and not their players.
Support The Players!
The NFL needs to do a better job of many things, but player safety needs to be the highest on the list. I know these guys get paid multimillions of dollars, but that doesn't mean their job (which is to entertain) should be any less safe. Having all fields go back to grass would significantly help prevent more injuries.
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