Reducing the Risk of Concussive Injury with Synthetic Turf

Reducing the Risk of Concussive Injury with Synthetic Turf

Head trauma and the long-term effects of repeated head impact are of utmost concern to athletes and their families. Scientists are just beginning to understand the short and long-term risk of collisions and concussions sustained in athletic endeavors—particularly in youth and collegiate sports.

The role of the playing surface in minimizing the force of impact and improving player safety should not be overlooked. Woodard & Curran has extensive experience designing and overseeing construction of athletic fields, and more and more, our clients are considering synthetic turf as an option. Not only are there environmental and cost benefits to choosing synthetic turf , there are safety benefits as well.

Synthetic Turf Is As Good or Better than Natural Grass Fields

The best synthetic turf fields are designed to simulate well-maintained natural grass fields in performance and safety. However, most natural turf fields are not well maintained. Improper design or lack of care leads to poor vegetation and over-compacted soils, ultimately resulting in an unsafe playing surface with a higher G-max level—a value that measures the impact-absorbing property of a playing surface.

The G-max rating for an athletic field is determined by an ASTM standard test method, which Woodard & Curran requires for every new field that we design and build. This test measures the acceleration associated with the impact of a test object on the playing surface. The lower the G-max, the safer the field is for athletes from an impact standpoint.

A professional-level, appropriately-maintained natural grass field could have a G-max of approximately 70 g’s. For reference, the g-force of a fighter jet roll is about 9 g’s. (See this informative article and table in Popular Mechanics.) More commonly, a natural grass field with typical maintenance will have an average G-max of 90-100 g’s. Our data shows that with the inclusion of a properly designed field cross-section, the G-max level of our synthetic turf fields is held in the range of 70-100 g’s, similar to that of the best natural grass fields.

Including a Shock Pad Improves Safety


The inclusion of a well-designed shock pad (i.e. one specifically designed for sports surfaces) under the synthetic turf field provides a safer, more consistent playing surface. The shock pad reduces and maintains the overall G-max level, typically for the life of the turf. One common misconception is that a lower G-max level means that the athletic field will be soft and slow. This is not the case if the field system is designed correctly.

In addition, a properly installed synthetic turf field provides a level and consistent playing surface. Uneven fields lead to foot and leg injuries. A 2004 NCAA study among schools nationwide comparing injury rates between natural and synthetic turf found that the injury rate during practice was 4.4% on natural turf and 3.5% on synthetic turf.

Another misconception is that high-quality synthetic turf is only affordable with a professional team budget. The initial cost of a synthetic turf field may be higher than a natural turf installation; however, on a cost-per-play basis, synthetic turf is less expensive. For example, Woodard & Curran designed and oversaw construction of synthetic turf athletic field with a shock pad system at Mercy College, a private institution with a Division II athletic program in Dobbs Ferry, NY. We were able to work within their budget, and the increase in available field time with the synthetic turf surface meant the college could provide their surplus time to local schools. Our goal is to design the safest and highest performing field possible within the owner’s available budget.


Senior Client Manager
Government & Institutional

View All Posts

Enter your email address below for industry news and updates about Woodard & Curran.