More sports complexes are shifting away from natural grass and making the move to artificial turf. While turf is often much more expensive at the outset, less regular maintenance is required, making them appealing to high school and college programs. But could this shift to artificial turf have implications for athlete injuries? A recent study took a closer look at which surface led to more injuries in soccer players.
Turf or Grass
For the study, researchers logged injury data from Major League Soccer games over the course of four seasons from 2013-2016. More than 2,000 injuries were charted over those four years, and researchers also tracked which parts of the body were injured and on what playing surface the injury developed. Here’s what they found after reviewing the data:
There were 2,174 reported injuries over the four years.
There were an average of 1.51 injuries per game on games played on artificial turf.
There were an average of 1.49 injuries per game on games played on grass.
This led researchers to conclude that there was no statistical difference between the likelihood of suffering an injury on a turf or grass field.
Ankle Injuries Increase On One Surface
So while the overall rate of injuries was not statistically different, when we take a closer look at lower body injuries, one playing surface becomes more dangerous than the other. According to researchers, ankle sprains, ankle fractures and Achilles injuries were found to have a statistically higher rate of occurrence on artificial turf surfaces compared to grass surfaces. Overall foot injuries, forefoot injuries and knee injuries showed no differences between the two surfaces, but it appears than certain ankle injuries and Achilles injuries are more likely on turf.
So what do we do with this information? You probably don’t have much say in the surface your son or daughter plays on during practices or games, but this should serve as a reminder that strength training, stretching and proper warm ups can help to prevent foot and ankle injuries. Make sure that you strength train in season and during the offseason to help strengthen your supportive ankle ligaments and the muscles that support your Achilles. During practices and games, make sure you take plenty of time to stretch and warm up so your body is ready for activity. These won’t prevent all foot and ankle injuries, but they can certainly help reduce the risk of injuries no matter what surface you’re playing on.
If you suffer a lower body injury while playing sports and want an orthopedic surgeon to provide you with a diagnosis and care, reach out to Dr. Silverman and the team at Silverman Ankle & Foot.