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NFL players say grass still best

February 2, 2011 -  By

By: Ron Hall

NFL players overwhelmingly prefer to play on natural grass, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) “2010 Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey” for 2010 reaffirms.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Almost since the introduction of artificial turf, including the latest generations of turf, professional football players have preferred playing surfaces of natural grass. The players’ concern is understandable. The NFLPA says the average career of an NFL player is 3.3 years with running backs and wide receivers having the shortest careers at 2.57 years and 2.81 years respectively.

This results of the latest survey, which is available as a pdf by clicking here, brings back memories of attending a meeting in the mid 1980s with Dr. Fred Grau, Dr. Kent Kurtz, former NFL great Gene Upshaw and several other people at the meeting that I don’t recall offhand. Upsaw, executive director of the NFLPA at the time, and turfgrass researchers Grau and Kurtz have since passed.

The purpose of the meeting just outside of Washington, D.C. was to discuss playing field safety, an issue that Upshaw championed. A former player himself, he realized the punishment NFL players were experiencing on those first artificial turf surfaces. From that day to this, NFL players feel that turfgrass playing surfaces are better for their careers than artificial turf. The NFLPA’s playing surface survey, which was initiated in 1994 and is conducted every two years, consistently favors grass. (Past results are available within the 2010 survey results pdf.)

In the 2010 player survey, 69.4% of the players prefer grass to 14.3% who prefer an artificial surface with 9% indicating no preference.

When asked if they believe that artificial surfaces are more likely to contribute to injury, 82.4% say yes while 89.1% feel artificial surfaces cause more soreness and fatigue, and 89.7% feel artificial surfaces are more likely to shorten their playing careers.

Here is some additional data from the NFLPA 2010 Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey

Best grass playing field

1. University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona Cardinals
2. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego Chargers
4. Bank of America Stadium, Carolina Panthers
5. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
6. Sun Life Stadium, Miami Dolphins
7. Reliant Stadium, Houston Texans
8. Everbank Field, Jacksonville Jaguars
9. Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver Broncos
10. LP Field,Tennessee Titans

Worst grass playing field

1. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Raiders
3. Soldier Field, Chicago Bears
4. Sun Life Stadium, Miami Dolphins
5. Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland Browns
6. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles
7. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
8. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Candlestick Park, San Francisco 49ERS
10. Reliant Stadium, Houston Texans

Best artificial infilled playing field

1. Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Colts
2. New Meadowlands Stadium, New York Giants/New York Jets,
3. Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans Saints
4. Qwest Field, Seattle Seahawks
5. Cowboys Stadium, Dallas Cowboys
6. Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons
7. Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots
8. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens
9. Edward Jones Stadium, St. Louis Rams
10. Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Bengals

Worst artificial infilled playing field

1. Metrodome, Minnesota Vikings
2. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo Bills
3. Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis Ram
4. Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Bengals
5. New Meadowlands Stadium, New York Giants/New York Jets
6. Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons
7. Ford Field, Detroit Lions
8. Louisiana Superdome New Orleans Saints
9. Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots
9. Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis Colts
10. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens

Here are some interesting comments from the survey.

Most recurring comments

— Artificial Turf is much harder on the body with joint soreness and makes for tougher work. Southern grass fields are the best.

—  Fields that are used for baseball and football leave hard infield that is difficult to play on. When you have one foot on grass and one in hard dirt, injuries are bound to happen.

— If it’s grass, enough of the highschools, colleges and concerts playing on it the day before. If it’s a cold weather grass field, these fields are battered to heck. The grounds crew can only do so much.

— We need a league wide standard/regulation policy for every field if the NFL really cares about the safety of all players.

— No baseball or half grass/half dirt infields.

Suggested changes

— Artificial surfaces should be required in cold weather cities.

— We need better practice fields. Level and elminate (sic) holes, divots and uneven ground.

— Cold weather grass teams should have road trips late in the season to avoid playing on frozen surfaces. There should be no games played on grass fields the same weekend as another event.

— Even dispersement (sic) of rubber material is needed, specifically comfortable give in twists and turns and level in height with no bumps.

— Every stadium should be evaluated properly every week prior to game day.

— If it’s a multi-purpose stadium, mandate that it’s artificial. If only one team used by the NFL, then it can be grass. Force Chicago and Pittsburgh to go turf.

— More time and money need to be spent on the fields. College surfaces are better.

— Use softer bermuda grass with sand.

— No more non updated artificial turf that is hard and over filled with ground up rubber and cheap top layer grass that you can pull off like a cheap tupae (sic) like Kansas City.

LM Staff

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