Insights on the Benefits of Synthetic Turf

As public and private institutions look for ways to reduce the costs of operating their athletic programs without compromising player safety, many are considering the pros and cons of installing a synthetic turf playing field. Woodard & Curran’s Anthony Catalano and Tom Shay recently co-authored an article on this subject with Pat Kennedy (Director of Athletics at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York) for American School & University magazine.

The article, “Turf Time for a Seamless Experience,” aims to dispel some common misconceptions about synthetic turf. For example, it’s often assumed that a high-quality synthetic turf field is only affordable with a professional team budget. The initial cost of a synthetic turf field may be higher than a natural grass installation; however, on a cost-per-play basis, synthetic turf is less expensive—as much as 70% or even 80% less, according to a University of California (Berkeley) study.


In addition, the authors provide insight on the role of synthetic turf on player safety. A poorly maintained natural grass athletic field can become overly compacted and uneven, which leads to an increased risk for concussive injury and sprains. On the other hand, a well-designed synthetic turf field has been shown to have a lower incidence of common sports injuries. Research is not yet conclusive; however, the authors cite a peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that found 12 percent fewer concussions and 32 percent fewer ligament tears on synthetic turf compared to natural grass.

Many institutions are also looking for ways to promote sustainable practices. The fact that a synthetic turf field requires less maintenance, like mowing, pesticides, or frequent irrigation, is clearly a green benefit. The authors explore this topic but also address the potential environmental and health effects from volatile organic compounds and reports of lead and other heavy metals in synthetic turf materials.

Read the full article online (free subscription required).


Tom Shay

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