Ask Thad: Why it’s time for the NFL to go all in on natural grass fields

By |  October 17, 2023 0 Comments
(Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

(Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

What’s your take on the NFL Players Association demanding natural grass leaguewide?

Well, this debate is back in the news. When we see a four-time MVP and future hall-of-fame quarterback go out for the season with an Achilles tear in an apparent noncontact injury, the argument will rage on. Do you hate the artificial surface because of the injuries, its appearance or because you grow grass for a living? For me, it’s all of the above. As a superintendent, you’ll never convince me that a synthetic surface is better than a properly maintained natural grass field. I hate the plasticky, shiny appearance of the field and the crumb rubber stuck to the athletes’ faces. Injuries are, of course, a huge factor.

NFLPA President JC Tretter (a local Batavia boy) wrote an open letter to the NFL last year stating, “Artificial turf is significantly harder on the body than grass.” Tretter referenced an independent study that found players have a 28 percent higher rate of noncontact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those noncontact injuries, players have a 32 percent higher rate of noncontact knee injuries on artificial turf and a staggering 69 percent higher rate of noncontact foot or ankle injuries on artificial turf compared to grass.

We have the science, technology and knowledge to grow a natural field in any climate, so there are no excuses at the highest levels of sports and teams have made huge investments in players. Protect your assets.

It’s disturbing seeing young athletes in high school with major lower body injuries due to artificial turf. Synthetic fields are becoming all too common at the lower levels of sport. As an industry are we doing all that we can with the knowledge we possess? Are we volunteering at a local high school to help improve a field or simply offering advice if questioned about our profession? Maybe if we help nip it in the bud at the local level, we could help educate school boards, coaches, parents and athletes and let them be the ones to become our advocates.

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