Guest Column - April 2020
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inPERSPECTIVE / SPORTS FIELDS

Make It Safer
>> How Innovative Turf Products Can Enhance Athletes' Safety

By Colin Veditz


When it comes to choosing a turf system, player safety is one of the primary concerns we hear from decision-makers across all sports. A poorly constructed turf field can be prone to a host of issues, from increased lower leg stress to decreased impact absorption.

Every part of a turf system, from the fibers to the infill to the shock pad, individually plays an important role in ensuring your athletes are safer—even while playing the world's toughest sports.

If this is your first time looking to purchase synthetic turf, or if you're experienced with other turf systems, this guide will help you smartly navigate the ins and outs of identifying a system that enhances safety.

Shock Pads That Absorb Impact

For increased safety, the shock pad is your best insurance policy; it guarantees there's always something to protect the player on impact. A good shock pad absorbs energy and decreases the impact on the athlete's body. The Gmax test is the industry's standard measurement for impact testing and measures the amount of energy that returns into a player's body. (The shock pad absorbs some of the energy when a player impacts the field, reducing the amount of energy returned to the player.)

The industry standard was 200 Gmax, but to guarantee a safe level, ask the manufacturer for 140 or lower Gmax score (in order to guarantee a sub-120 Gmax, you have to have a shock pad).

Your shock pad should also last you two field lifecycles (average field lifecycle is eight to 10 years, so your shock pad should last 16 to 20 years).

A Denser, More Durable Turf

To enhance safety, you want a field made up of thicker, denser fibers, and the standard measurement for this is "face weight" (the weight of the fibers in a square yard section of turf).

Essentially, the higher the face weight, the more fibers and durability. Face weights typically range from 30 to 60 ounces.

Less Infill Compaction & Displacement

When infill can easily shift around, it can result in an inconsistent and unsafe playing surface. Infill can compact in areas, causing a player's foot to get stuck when pivoting or turning. Conversely, infill can become displaced, leaving "bald" spots of the turf with little left but fibers.

These problems are more common with tufted turf, where the fibers are glued into a backing in rows (creating "valleys" in between where infill can easily shift around). With woven turf, the fibers are interlocked together in a matrix pattern, keeping infill consistent, which allows an athlete's foot to easily move in place with less rotational resistance—reducing lower-leg stress.

The Right Balance Between Infill & Fibers

When a field is unbalanced, a player can have a turning force too high or too low, increasing the risk of injury. Look at the manufacturer's preferred infill rate and inquire about options for an infill ratio tailored to your intended field use.

Thicker, Wider, Stronger Turf Fibers

Fiber loss and deterioration are unfortunate problems for many facilities. Left with fewer fibers, your turf becomes nothing but infill—creating numerous safety hazards for athletes.

With turf fibers, stronger and wider ones are best. Monofilament fibers break down more easily, particularly those with a spine in the middle of each blade. Slit-film fibers are the most durable.

A Durable Field

As previously shared, a turf's durability and predictability are key to decreasing the likelihood of injury. If you want to know how confident a manufacturer feels about its product's durability, then look for those that offer a non-prorated warranty for at least eight years. (A 10-year non-prorated warranty is the "gold" standard.)

A lot contributes to a turf's safety, but by understanding what to look for and key questions to ask, you can more easily find the system that's right for you and your athletes. RM



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Colin Veditz serves as installation quality control manager for Tencate Grass, a global leader in synthetic turf fibers and products. He has 15 years of on-field installation experience and field evaluation, including installations at professional, collegiate and high school levels.