Duke Soccer Politics Blog
EXCERPTS FROM THE ARTICLE:
What Do the Players Say? -- Although officials say the research doesn’t prove more injury likelihood and the use of artificial turf is widespread throughout all sports today, soccer players’ perceptions and views towards playing on this surface remain unchanged. Players feel that the turf surface is unforgiving, increasing the risk of concussions when they hit the ground and adding to the wear and tear on their bodies. Abby Wambach, the FIFA player of the year in 2012, helped lead the petition against the use of the turf fields. She felt strongly on the matter, saying, “It wrecks your body and changes the way the game is played” (USA TODay). Sydney Leroux, who plays professional for the Seattle Reign, said in 2013 that her back is the worst it has ever felt because it felt like she was “running on concrete every day” (Foudy).
Alex Morgan, a prominent U.S. national team player, spoke of a teammates’ Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL) injury and felt that it was caused because “the turf didn’t give like natural grass would have” (Litman). Not only are players concerned about major ligament tears and concussions, but they also speak to the increased stress on the body. Morgan feels that recovery time is an issue as well: “The achiness, taking longer to recover than on natural grass, the tendons and ligaments are, for me at least, I feel more sore after turf (Litman).
In a USA Today article, Dr. Michael Freitas, associate professor of clinical orthopedics and team doctor for the Western New York Flash, remarks that it hasn’t truly been proven which field surface is better. However, Freitas notes that all turf fields aren’t created equally, which would affects surface consistency. Reinforcing Alex Morgan’s point upon recovery time, Freitas mentions that artificial surfaces can be “harder, less cushioning, and they may get more aches and pains” (Litman). He also felt there was truth to her remarks regarding ACL tears: “When your foot hits the grass and you twist, your foot is going to come out of contact with the ground easier than it would on an artificial surface… So that rotation is then taken up in your ligament, which can rupture, as opposed to your foot breaking contact with the grass, which allows that force to be dissipated” (Litman).
Let’s take a quick look at an 18 month study commissioned by FIFA in hopes of determining player perception of football playing surfaces. The study took the responses of 1,129 players from 44 countries (111 female/1,018 male). 80% of respondents agree or strongly agree that all games should be played on natural grass.
As director of the Football Research Group in Sweden, Ekstrand’s group has peformed research on artificial turf starting over 10 years ago. Fifa.com posted the interview, in which Ekstrand states that the studies “are all entirely consistent: the total risk of injury is the same on football turf as it is on natural grass” (fifa.com). The study was focused in Scandinavia, but also in the Netherlands and Switzerland. This findings rely upon the condition that the turf is FIFA-certified. One point that is interesting to note however is that the studies “only focused on injuries that caused absence from either training or matches” (fifa.com). Ekstrand comments that other aches and pains that might have been experienced and reported, such as sore muscle or back pains, were not included in these studies.