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NFLPA president calls for immediate replacement of artificial turf fields

November 17, 2022  - By

In a letter released on Nov. 12, NFL Players Association (NFLPA) president JC Tretter called for all NFL teams to “proactively change all field surfaces to natural grass.”

“Grass will eventually give, which often releases the cleat prior to reaching an injurious load,” Tretter wrote. “On synthetic surfaces, there is less give, meaning our feet, ankles and knees absorb the force, which makes injury more likely to follow.”

Dozens of players, most recently Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, called for the league to switch to natural grass following injuries attributed to the playing surface.

Tretter cited data from the NFL that he says shows a 69 percent increase in non-contact foot and ankle injuries on artificial turf.

The NFL refuted the statistic, saying that its Joint Field Surface Safety & Performance Committee found no difference between the number of injuries on slit-film turf versus natural grass.

“While slit-film surfaces have 2-3 more injuries per year, most of them are ankle sprains — a low-burden injury — whereas slit film also sees a lower rate of fewer high-burden ACL injuries compared to other synthetic fields,” Jeff Miller, executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy for the NFL said in a statement.

Seven stadiums currently use slit-film turf:

  • MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
  • Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
  • U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Caesars Superdome, New Orleans
  • Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Not just artificial turf

Tretter also called for the NFL not to allow games on fields with “clear visual abnormalities.”

“Too often, we see fields with clear issues that pose an increased risk to the players,” he said. “We should not be playing on anything but the best-quality playing surfaces. We saw this in Chicago and Las Vegas during the preseason, with chunks of grass torn up.”

Chicago’s Soldier Field took heat for its quality in the NFL’s preseason, leading to the installation of new bermudagrass before the start of the season. Several concerts left the previous Kentucky bluegrass field in poor condition ahead of an Aug. 13 game between the Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Issues across the pond

Recently, the NFLPA raised concerns about the playing surface at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, the site of a Nov. 13 game between the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had harsh words for the natural grass playing surface, calling it “a nightmare.”

“I think the topic is kind of on right now on fields in general, and we just like to keep getting better at it and understanding how we can make the game safer and the game better in all ways,” Carroll said. “That’s not to say it has to be natural turf versus artificial or whatever. We just need to keep working at it, but it’s really nice when it is uniform.”

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Athletic Turf's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Athletic Turf, DiFranco was a sports reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio

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