Playing on artificial turf is a growing phenomena in many schools and for recreational sports. Although there are benefits to playing on such surfaces, there are also important considerations that ought to be made.
What is Artifical turf?
It is a surface manufactured from synthetic fibers made to look like natural grass. The base is filled with granulated rubber/ silicon sand which absorbs excess water making the turf ideal to play on during bad weather, so there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ or muddy field day.
However in addition to the advantages of astro turf, there are some downsides and common injuries associated with playing on astro turf:
1) Astro burns
As the synthetic grass is made of plastic there is more frictional between the skin and the grass surface. When one slides onto the astro turf, abrasions are much more serious as compared to grass grazes.
If your sport activity involves diving or sliding on the astro turf, make sure that you are covered properly or apply moisturiser to the exposed skin surfaces in order to protect it.
2) More prone to heat exhaustion
Playing under the sun during a hot afternoon sun can result in more incidences of dehydration and in more severe cases heat exhaustion. Unlike natural grass, the base of the astro turf is commonly filled with granulated rubber which absorbs more heat from the sun, making playing on turf extremely hot and a potentially unbearable experience.
Avoid playing on the astro turf under the afternoon heat. If playing at such times can not be avoided, ensure you hydrate well, and take in fluids and food rich in K+, Na+ such as bananas and isotonic drinks. Hydrate well before, during and after the game.
Look out for signs of heat exhaustion such as cold sweat, clammy palms, pale skin and feeling faint!
3) More Lower limb injuries associated with astro turf
Based on studies done, there are no significant differences between the incidence of injuries on artificial turf and natural grass. However, there is a common trend towards more prevalence of lower limb injuries namely, ligament injuries in knee and ankle sprains.
This is because there is more friction on the synthetic turf, the base of the footwear may get caught on the turf resulting in torsional and twisting injuries to the ankles and knees.
Proper footwear such as turf shoes are advisable whilst playing on turf ground.
Also as playing is done on astro turf surfaces, the feel is very different thus proper warm up and training should be done on the artificial turf before playing an actual game.
2) Michael C. Meyers, Incidence, mechanisms and severity of game-related college football injuries on field turf verus natural grass. A 3 year prospective study. Am J Sports Med April 2010 vol. 38 no. 4 687-697
3) Kathrin steffen, Thor Elnar Andersen, Roald Bahr. Risk of injury on artificial turf and natural grass in young female football players. Br J Sports Med 2007;41:i33-i37 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.036665
4) Michael C. Meyers, Incidence, mechanisms and severity of game-related college football injuries on field turf verus natural grass. A 3 year prospective study. Am J Sports Med October 2004 vol. 32 no. 7 1626-1638