We’ve come a long way from the earliest versions of artificial turf, which were essentially large pieces of green plastic laid down over cement. The newest generations of artificial turf are radically better than the very first versions, yet the debate over which type of surface is best from a safety standpoint continues.
We’ll highlight this week some of the latest published research in this debate. In a large series specifically studying collegiate tackle football, it was determined that playing on artificial turf was an increased risk for PCL injuries in Division I players and for ACL injuries in Division II and Division III players.
While there are many strengths in this study, I would caution that the results are specific to American collegiate tackle football and may not be similar in other sports or in youth age groups.
I’ve written previously about injury rates on FieldTurf versus natural grass and in 2011 one well conducted study showed a substantially higher injury rate on FieldTurf. I revisited this issue in 2013 when my partner at Stanford Dr. Jason Dragoo presented results of his study of NCAA athletes with ACL tears and found a substantially higher incidence of ACL tears in games played on field turf. Is this still the case with the newer generation of artificial turf surfaces?