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NFL Players Association president JC Tretter is calling for NFL teams to change all field surfaces to natural grass to reduce the risk of injury to players.
Tretter, the starting center for the Cleveland Browns, wrote in a newsletter that players have a 28% higher rate of noncontact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf compared with grass. Tretter added that those rates are even higher for noncontact knee injuries (32%) and noncontact foot and ankle injuries (69%) on turf compared with grass.
“The data stands out,” Tretter said. “Those numbers are staggering, the difference in injury rate in turf and natural grass. It’s possible to get grass in every location, and it’s about pushing for that. We all should be working toward the safest style of play. We know the dangers of playing on turf. That’s not good for anybody. Not good for players. It’s not good for the GMs and the head coaches. It’s not good for the owners. It’s not good for the fans. Increased injures is not good for anybody.
“Until we can find a way to get synthetic turf to respond and react like natural grass, it’s too much of a danger to play on and expect different results.”
Currently, 13 NFL stadiums use artificial turf.
San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his players had expressed concern about the turf at MetLife Field, where the team recently lost a number of players, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and defensive end Nick Bosa, to injuries.
Tretter attributed the data to NFL injury analysis collected from 2012 to 2018 and said a “committee of engineers” has been tasked with examining field surfaces. Tretter also advocated for a “better regimen” for surface testing, noting that the Clegg Impact Tester presently used by the league measures hardness of a surface, “but not performance and safety.”
He said teams shouldn’t use climate or indoor stadiums as an excuse not to implement grass, given that several cold-weather teams, including the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, use grass already, and the Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders have natural grass despite playing indoors.
“This is something from here on out we need to make a priority,” Tretter said. “Players safety will always be a priority for us and the union.”
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