Study says NFL athletes more likely to suffer knee and ankle injuries on FieldTurf

March 13, 2010 -  By

NEW ORLEANS — Pro football players are more likely to suffer certain types of knee and ankle injuries on an artificial turf called FieldTurf than on natural grass, a new study contends.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2002-2008 National Football League seasons and found that teams playing on FieldTurf had an 88% higher rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and a 48% higher rate of eversion ankle sprains (foot twists outward).

Per team game, the rate of all reported game-related lower extremity injuries was 27% higher on FieldTurf than on natural grass.

The data was released during a presentation Friday, March 12, at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). The study was led by Elliott B. Hershman, MD, Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, NY, and Chair of the NFL Injury and Safety Panel. As chair of the panel, Dr. Hershman meets with trainers, team physicians and orthopaedic surgeons who together study injuries in the NFL and look for ways to prevent them.

“These injuries could be happening for myriad reasons, and we need to further explore and initiate research into exactly why this is happening,” said Hershman. “What can be done to make the turf safer? Would different sports, such as soccer or age groups, such as high school football players, also sustain more ACL injuries or eversion ankle sprains on FieldTurf? What biomechanics are happening when a players’ shoe meets the FieldTurf surface? We need to find answers to these, and other questions,” he added.

Hershman emphasized that his study only applies to NFL players, and does not offer reasons as to why more injuries occur on FieldTurf. However, the conclusions in the study are clear, and he added “many NFL players prefer FieldTurf because it is softer and more comfortable to land on than other playing surfaces such as natural grass, but the more that NFL players play on this surface, the more prone they are to injury. “It is important for athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, and fans to be aware of this issue.”

Speaking to the Associated Press, FieldTurf president Eric Daliere took issue with the findings. He said that recent data published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine by Michael Meyers of Montana State University found lower rates of injury among college football players who played on FieldTurf. That research was funded by FieldTurf and did not look at NFL football, the AP noted.

“Michael Meyers has come to a very different conclusion on a different level and his is a real study, not just a report,” Daliere told the AP. “He mentions poorly designed [analyses] and this is the kind of work he does and that the statistical analysis by the [NFL] panel was also flawed.”

“I don’t put a lot of weight in it and think if is unfortunate it is coming out this way at this time,” he said.

Dr. Hershman’s abstract here.

LM Staff

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