“Every game, every team should have grass,” David Beckham said shortly after joining MLS in 2007.
Sixteen years later, six Major League Soccer teams (more than 20%) have artificial turf on their grounds, including Atlanta United’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Inter Miami will play on Saturday with Lionel Messi likely to feature.
“As a professional athlete, you can’t play a game like soccer in this type of stadium,” Beckham, now co-owner of Inter Miami, said after missing a match for the Los Angeles Galaxy at BMO Field in Toronto – which was He had artificial turf at the time – due to an ankle injury.
Beckham added: “What happens to your body as a footballer is that you are in a state of shreds for three days afterwards.”
In Messi’s introductory media conference after joining Inter Miami, the 36-year-old explained that “his youth was spent on artificial turf, and my whole life was on this pitch,” although when he moved to Europe and Barcelona he played on grass.
“The truth is that it has been a long time since I played on artificial turf, but I have no problem adapting again,” Messi said.
Almost all top-level clubs in Europe use natural grass pitches. Bodo/Glimt in Norway and Young Boys in Switzerland are some exceptions, while several clubs in the Netherlands have used artificial surfaces, although the country’s top men’s league, the Eredivisie, announced earlier this year that all matches must be played On natural grass. From 2025.
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Beckham watches from the bench during LA Galaxy’s match against Toronto FC at BMO Stadium on August 5, 2007.
In the NFL, Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending rupture of his Achilles tendon on Monday sparked debate over whether the game should be played on natural grass or artificial surfaces.
Messi’s arrival in Major League Soccer has also sparked a similar debate in American soccer about the potential health effects of playing on an artificial surface.
Science is conflicting about whether artificial turf poses increased health concerns for those who play on it.
A 2022 study in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Medicine, which looked at ACL injuries in American high schools from 2007 to 2019, found that of all injuries, ACL injuries were more likely to occur on artificial turf than on natural turf. In all of American football. And girls’ football. However, no significant association was found in boys’ soccer.
The study also found that among lower extremity injuries, ACL injuries were more likely to occur on artificial turf than on natural turf in both boys’ soccer and girls’ soccer, with no association in American football.
Meanwhile, a 2021 study in the journal Current Orthopedic Practice found: “While playing on surfaces in general does not appear to affect overall injury risk in soccer and rugby players, data is inconclusive among American football athletes.” Lower extremity injuries, especially knee and ankle injuries, occur more commonly on artificial turf than on natural turf.
Lower leg injuries that occur on artificial turf are not just a problem for NFL players. Some female footballers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the use of artificial pitches – as well as poorly maintained playing surfaces – and the risks of injury that accompany this.
“When I was playing as a teenager, we often played on third-generation pitches and those surfaces are not ideal for playing football at all,” said Northern Ireland international Simone Magill, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the opening match of the Women’s Euro 2022. “Some of them were in very bad shape,” she told CNN before this year’s Women’s World Cup on a grass field.
3G pitch is an artificial field consisting of crumb rubber and artificial turf.
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Messi speaks during a press conference at DRV PNK Stadium on August 17.
There was controversy around the 2015 Women’s World Cup as players were forced to play on artificial pitches, with some even saying this may have led to a lack of goals.
Magill said the vast majority of players prefer to play on real grass, with many feeling that injuries are more common on artificial surfaces.
Atlanta United’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017. The artificial surface – designed by FieldTurf – is called CORE. FieldTurf said it is “designed to deliver a more realistic turf-like shape and feel with optimal durability and flexibility.”
Holly Silvers-Granelli, chair of the MLS Medical Evaluation Research Committee, explained to CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta before the Women’s World Cup why turf can lead to more lower leg injuries than natural grass.
“So we know that the coefficient of friction, which is basically the forces between your shoe and the playing surface, is important. So, there’s very little in hockey,” said Silvers-Granelli, who has a master’s degree in physical therapy. “You’re sliding on the ice for good reason. You’re Need to slide.”
“In soccer, American football, lacrosse or field hockey, we need a certain amount of coefficient of friction to perform.
“You have to have a little bit of traction between your foot and the playing surface to change direction, slow down, cut, or make a change based on whether the ball is deflected or not.
“The problem is that if the coefficient of friction is too high, that force can be mitigated in the knee and we know that’s not ideal for the knee.
“The idea is to prepare the athletes for any environmental scenario they will face. If you train on grass and your match is away from home, we don’t want to set you up for failure.
“So we have to provide biomechanical tools and strengthening tools for these individuals so that they are not at risk based on what particular Sunday or Saturday they have an away game.”
CNN has reached out to MLS, Atlanta United and FieldTurf for comment.
Synthetic pitches tend to be used due to climate and cost-saving issues, with Silvers-Granelli explaining that there has been an influx of synthetic surfaces in California for environmental reasons.
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General view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Silvers-Granelli also said many elite athletes used to adapt their games to suit different playing surfaces, but recommended playing on grass if possible to avoid injuries.
“So when we look at the speed of the game, the way they run, they cut, they slow down, they tend to do it a little bit slower because they’re intrinsically protecting themselves, which is really cool and I think athletes who are unable to do that could have risks.” Larger.
Dr. Andrew Pearl, chief of sports medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, echoed Silvers-Granelli’s sentiment.
“I mean, in theory, on grass, you have more slippage,” he told CNN. “So, don’t get into those positions… When you tear your ACL, your foot or leg is usually stuck, and your body is rotating around. So I think these positions happen more on grass and they happen with certain shoes.”
The issue of using artificial turf in NFL stadiums and changing it for football games is one raised by Rodgers’ former Green Bay Packers teammate and close friend David Bakhtiari, who posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, his dismay at the practice, saying: “You care More football players than us.
“You’re planning to remove all the artificial turf for the next World Cup. It’s obviously possible. I’m tired of this.. Do better!”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Wednesday that he will meet with FIFA President Gianni Infantino next week to discuss the future of surface play.
“They will play the World Cup,” Goodell said, referring to the 2026 tournament being held in North America.
“They’re not going to put in turf. They’re going to put in a mixed turf, a mixed turf with an artificial surface, which is something we’re working on trying to see: ‘Is this a better surface for us?’ Because you have to look at the climate as well,” Goodell said.
“Will the field be good in September? Will it also be good in December and January?”
Frenchman Thierry Henry, who played for the New York Red Bulls from 2010 to 2014, avoided playing on artificial turf completely.
“Maybe I need to remind you,” Henry said in 2011. “The grass is one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen for us to play on.”
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Henry plays against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro in 2014.
Since his move to MLS from Paris Saint-Germain, Messi has had a huge impact on the pitch with Inter Miami, as well as off it, particularly in sparking interest in soccer in the United States.
Inter Miami, who were winless in nine matches before the 36-year-old’s emergence, are now unbeaten in 11 matches and claimed their first title last month.
More than 70,000 fans are expected to be in Atlanta to watch Atlanta United v Inter Miami, but in his next stunt, how will Messi handle playing on artificial surfaces?