football player

Ball-surface and player-surface interaction are key performance requirements that need to be considered in an artificial turf pitch for soccer. The principal aspects for which surfaces are tested include ball rebound resilience, rolling resistance, traction/friction, sliding resistance and surface hardness. These tests help to understand the needs and requirements of players and ensure the development of a high performance playing surface.

Natural Performance All Year Long

Soccer players need to be able to perform a range of actions. They have to be able to start, stop and change direction abruptly, sprint, jog and walk forward, backward and sideways, jump, slide and fall over.

Artificial turf designed with Dow products is soft enough to absorb impacts thus reducing the risk of incurring graze injuries, providing stability and safer stopping and allowing cleats to sink into the turf filling material just as they would with the earth under natural grass. Ball-roll and rebound have also been drastically improved over the years to replicate the characteristics of a natural playing surface.

Certainly it cannot be disputed that well-manicured natural grass is considered an ideal playing surface for soccer. However, a good grass pitch is difficult and expensive to maintain. In addition, climate conditions have a major influence on natural turf. As a result of environmental and playability issues, grass cannot always be maintained at optimum quality, thus tending to be inefficient and unsafe to play on.

A Safe Surface to Play On

Safety continues to be the major concern among soccer players when it comes to artificial turf, which has been wrongly accused of causing more injuries than natural grass. Research conducted by UEFA and published in December 2006 (see study below) showed no increase in injury incidence when elite football is played on artificial turf compared to natural grass.

Study: Risk of injury in elite football played on artificial turf versus natural grass 
Objective: To compare risk of injury in elite football played on artificial turf compared to natural grass.
Participants: 290 players from 10 elite European clubs that had installed third-generation artificial turf surfaces in 2003-4, and 202 players from the Swedish Premier League.
Conclusions:
  • The data show no increase in injury incidence when elite football is played on artificial turf as opposed to natural grass
  • The higher incidence of ankle sprains on artificial turf warrants further attention, although this result should be interpreted with caution as the number of ankle sprains was low
  • From the medical point of view, there is no contraindication to the expansion of artificial turf technology.
Authors: J. Ekstrand, T. Timpka, M. Hägglund, Dep. of Social Medicine and Public Health Science, Linköping University, and the Sports Clinic, Linköping, Sweden
Funding: The research was funded by UEFA, the Swedish Sports Confederation (Sports Research Council) and Praktikertjänst AB.
Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine 2006 – www.bjsportmed.com