Turf vs Grass Fields: Is One Safer than The Other?

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Hey, Soccer Insiders!!!

I’m sure you’ve asked: “Turf vs Grass Fields – what’s the big deal?” As your friendly neighborhood soccer coach and chief writer at ClubSoccerInsider.com, I’m here to break it down for you. 

This is a much-talked-about topic in soccer and with good reason! The type of field your young player trains and plays on makes a big difference. It can affect both their performance and their risk of injury. It’s an aspect of the game that often gets overlooked, but not here.

In this article, we’ll dive headfirst into this often confusing topic and help you understand the pros and cons of turf and grass fields. Let’s begin to unpack our first question, “Is turf better than grass?”

Is turf better than grass?

Turf and grass fields each have their unique benefits. Turf fields, made from synthetic materials, offer a consistently smooth playing surface, free from the variability of natural elements. They’re durable and require less maintenance than grass fields. 

On the other hand, grass fields, if well-maintained, can provide a superior natural playing experience that many players and purists of the game tend to prefer. They offer natural cushioning, which is gentler on the joints.

Turf vs grass injuries

Injuries, a crucial point of contention in the turf versus grass debate, can vary significantly depending on the field type. Artificial turf, particularly its older iterations, has a reputation for being harsher on player’s bodies. It tends to result in a higher risk of certain types of injuries, primarily:

  • Abrasion injuries: Often called “turf burns,” these are surface scratches that happen due to the rough synthetic fibers of old-generation artificial turf.
  • Sprains and strains: Due to the lesser “give” of turf than grass, players may experience more joint and muscle sprains or strains, particularly in the ankle and knee.
  • ACL Injuries: With more friction between the player’s shoe and the ground, the stopping and starting motions can strain the knee, increasing the risk of ACL injuries.
  • Concussions: Some studies suggest that the impact of a player’s head hitting the hard surface of artificial turf could potentially increase the risk of concussions compared to natural grass.

Elite-level soccer players like Lionel Messi, Abby Wambach, and Franck Ribéry have openly voiced their concerns. They believe that turf can cause unnecessary injuries and disrupt the game’s natural flow.

However, it’s worth noting that improvements in turf technology have sought to reduce these risks over recent years. Newer turf systems aim to mimic grass fields’ natural ‘give’ more closely and incorporate additional cushioning materials. Despite these advancements, the injury risk debate between turf and grass fields remains a hot topic.

Pros and Cons of Turf vs Grass

Let’s take a more comprehensive look at turf and grass fields:

Turf Fields:

  • Pros: Durable, low maintenance, unaffected by weather, consistent playing surface.
  • Cons: Higher injury risk (abrasions), can get excessively hot, not as appealing to some due to lack of natural elements.

Grass Fields:

  • Pros: Natural feel, lower risk of abrasions, gentler on joints.
  • Cons: High maintenance, can be affected by weather, playing surface can be inconsistent.

What soccer teams play on Turf?

Professional teams playing on turf fields extend well beyond the borders of the United States. The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer (MLS) are known for their turf fields. These fields are more durable and can withstand the rainy weather of the Pacific Northwest, making them a practical choice.

Reigning women’s World Cup champions, the U.S. Women’s National Team, have often played on artificial turf. Notably, the entire 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada was played on artificial turf, a first for a World Cup tournament, due to its durability and lower maintenance cost than grass in harsher climates.

Across the pond, in Scotland, many teams in the Scottish Professional Football League, such as Hamilton Academical, Livingston, and Kilmarnock, have, at various points, used artificial turf. Their decision is often driven by climate considerations and the multi-use nature of many stadiums in the league.

Football Club Zenit Saint Petersburg of the Russian Premier League also plays on artificial turf, a necessity given the harsh Russian winters.

Specific games have occasionally been moved to turf fields, too. The NFL’s Super Bowl XLI was relocated to a turf-covered Dolphins Stadium due to heavy rains that made the grass field unplayable. 

It’s important to note that the decision to play on turf can be influenced by regional climate, the multi-use nature of the stadiums, and financial considerations related to the maintenance and utility of the fields.

Key Takeaways

  • Turf and grass fields each have their benefits and drawbacks.
  • Turf fields are durable and consistent but may lead to a slightly higher risk of abrasions.
  • Grass fields offer a natural playing experience and gentler impact on joints but require more maintenance.
  • Some professional teams, including the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, choose to play on turf fields.

New to Youth Soccer? Our Basic Rules of Soccer article is a great place to start!!!

Basic Rules of Soccer: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Your Child on the Sideline

Frequently Asked Questions: Turf vs Grass Fields 

How Can I Reduce My Child’s Risk of Injury on Turf Fields?

Ensure they wear appropriate gear, including long socks and shin guards, to reduce the risk of abrasions. Proper warm-up and conditioning exercises can also help avoid overuse injuries.

Which Is More Expensive to Maintain, Turf or Grass Fields?

Typically, grass fields are more expensive to maintain due to the need for watering, mowing, fertilizing, and reseeding.

Does Weather Affect Turf Fields Like It Does Grass Fields?

Turf fields are far less affected by weather conditions than grass fields. However, they can get excessively hot in sunny, warm weather.