The NFLPA is calling for stadiums to switch to natural turf
“Moving all stadium fields to high-quality natural grass surfaces is the easiest decision the NFL can make,” NFL Executive Director Lloyd Howell said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “Players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that turf is simply safer than artificial turf. It’s an issue that was near the top of the list during my visits to the team and I’ve raised it with the NFL.”
During a conference call Tuesday, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Innovation Jeff Miller said there were no statistical differences in injury data for Achilles injuries sustained on natural turf versus artificial turf fields, dating back to 2015.
On Sunday, Baltimore Ravens running back JK Dobbins ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing on the turf.
The newly installed FieldTurf Core surface is described as a “multi-layer, dual-polymer monofilament” synthetic surface, and was placed at MetLife Stadium and inside the Giants’ training house across the parking lot this offseason. The immediate feedback from Giants players this summer was that the surface was more forgiving than previously, although there is still support for the switch to natural grass league-wide.
Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard tore his Achilles tendon and ACL in separate injuries in back-to-back seasons on the old turf at MetLife Stadium.
“It’s a little better, but grass to me, you know what I mean,” Shepherd said last month. “You wish you were playing on the same surface every time you went out on the field. It’s grass at the end of the day… The other one was, I think, a little thinner than the one we have now.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh told reporters in a video call on Tuesday that it is difficult to place blame for Rodgers’ injury on the playing surface.
“If it was a non-contact injury, I think it would be obvious that that is something that needs to be discussed,” Saleh said. He added, “But I think (Rodgers’ injury) was a result of trauma. I know that players prefer grass and there is a lot of investment in these young men.”
How was Aaron Rodgers injured?
Rodgers was sacked by Buffalo Bills pass rusher Leonard Floyd four times in his Jets debut when his left leg got stuck underneath him. Television replays showed an obvious pop near the calf area, and Rodgers missed time in the offseason with a calf injury.
Green Bay Packers offensive lineman David Bakhtiari blamed the turf for Rodgers’ injury in a social media post.
“Congratulations NFL. How many players are going to get hurt on artificial turf??!” Bakhtiari wrote. “You care more about footballers than us. You’re planning to remove all the artificial turf for the next World Cup. So it’s clearly possible. I’m tired of this. Do better!”
“Although we know there is an investment in making this change, there is a greater cost to everyone in our business if we continue to lose our best players to unnecessary injuries,” Howell said. “It doesn’t make sense for stadiums to switch to high-quality grass surfaces when the World Cup comes around, or football clubs come to visit exhibition matches in the summer, but lower quality synthetic surfaces are acceptable to our players. This is worth the investment.” “It simply needs to change now.”