Artificial turf fields are popular, but are they safe? A new report by the Concussion Legacy Foundation has linked head injuries to poorly maintained turf fields. Fifteen percent of concussions are caused by the head hitting the turf, as opposed to player-to-player contact. Hardened turf fields, like hard natural grass fields, increase the risk of head injuries to athletes.
Artificial turf fields rely upon rubber pellets or sand between the plastic turf fibers to provide needed impact attenuation. Turf fields are sold to schools and recreation centers as zero maintenance. But that’s not accurate.
Rubber pellets and sand need to be raked regularly to make sure the cushioning is spread evenly. The pellets and sand need to be replaced every few years, and the fields themselves every 10 years. Most turf fields come with an 8-year warranty. Like any other product, turf wears out.
Many turf fields receive no routine maintenance. Others are just reaching their maximum useful life, with no plans to replace them. Many athletic departments and park officials are unfamiliar with turf field maintenance requirements and don’t have regular maintenance and inspection procedures in place. This places competitors at risk of personal injury. The biggest risk is for mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI), also known as concussions.
Turf fields also get much more use than natural grass. In DC, natural grass fields are closed from the Friday before Thanksgiving until the third Friday in March, to allow the grass to recover. Turf is popular because it can be used year-round.
Local organizations such as DC Stoddert Soccer compete with public and private schools, local leagues, and clubs for turf field playing time.
Kids love turf because of the smooth roll and year-round use, even when wet. But the beauty of DC’s new turf fields is only skin deep if they are not maintained properly.
If you or a loved one is injured on a turf, or natural grass field, the condition of the playing surface and field maintenance must be evaluated by appropriate experts.
Washington DC personal injury attorneys
Zukerberg & Halperin, PLLC represent victims of sports-related injuries, including those who suffer from head injuries related to artificial turf fields.