Synthetic Playing Surfaces and Athlete Health


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Abstract

Synthetic playing surfaces have evolved considerably since their introduction in the 1960s. Today, third-generation turf is routinely installed in professional, collegiate, and community settings. Proponents of artificial surfaces tout their versatility and durability in a variety of climates. However, the health and injury ramifications have yet to be clearly defined. Musculoskeletal injury is largely affected by the shoe-playing surface interface. However, conclusive statements cannot be made regarding the risk of certain shoe-playing surface combinations because of the variety of additional factors, such as weather conditions, shoe wear, and field wear. Historically, clinical studies have indicated that higher injury rates occur on artificial turf than on natural surfaces. This conclusion is backed by robust biomechanical data that suggest that torque and strain may be greater on artificial surfaces than on natural grass. Recent data on professional athletes suggest that elite athletes may sustain injuries at increased rates on the newer surfaces. However, these surfaces remain attractive to athletes and administrators alike because of their durability, relative ease of maintenance, and multiuse potential.

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