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Are Artificial Turf Fields Safe?

Are Artificial Turf Fields Safe?

Are Artificial Turf Fields Safe?

The short answer is yes! Artificial turf fields are safe, provided they are constructed correctly and properly maintained.

Let us backup for a moment…natural grass fields will always be the preferred playing surface, provided they are well maintained and in good shape. The major knock against natural grass fields is they cannot take the wear and tear after hours of play. In addition, in certain climates, the soil can become very compacted and hard – think very hot dry summers or very cold winters. Ultimately, natural grass is very difficult to maintain the level of consistency, playability, and safety. That is why artificial surfaces have become so popular…they are more predictable and consistent in their performance and safety.

So, the question becomes how do you build a safe field? First, you must select a turf system from a certified manufacture who spends the time, effort, and energy to invest in studying player safety – and how their turf systems perform. The goal is to mimic natural grass.

Each manufacture’s system will have recommended amounts of infill that act as a cushion for the athlete’s head and body to protect them from the stone beneath the turf. Typically, this consists of sand and crumb rubber in varying amounts, measured in pounds per square foot (1×1) area. There are tests designed to measure the amount of “cushion” that is provided by the infill called GMAX and HIC test. (More on GMAX and HIC later.)

With the industry’s desire to make infills that do not retain as much heat, they have come up with alternate infills that eliminate the heat absorption of crumb rubber. When the rubber is eliminated from the field so is the “cushion” part that protects the athlete from concussions. To compensate from the rubber being removed, the industry has engineered shock pads (think carpet pad) that is placed on top of the stone, and beneath the turf. This provides for consistent fall protection and allows owners to choose organic infills which reduce the amount of heat that rubber generally holds or tuning the infill to the performance of the sports being played on the surface.

The importance of shock pads cannot be overlooked. Although crumb rubber is effective at cushioning falls it is not ideal, because crumb rubber moves.The rubber can migrate from the center of the field to the sidelines. (That is why a consistent maintenance plan is so important. Rubber needs to be added and redistributed to keep the field at a steady and consistent GMAX rating.)

Because shock pads do not move or migrate (they are flat polypropylene panels that blanket the stone) they are predictable, so GMAX is 100% consistent and guaranteed on every area of the field for multiple field life cycles.

The other component of player safety is lower extremity injuries. These typically come from “soft” fields or from fields where the player’s cleats do not properly release when they plant their foot. Shock pads allow the manufacture to increase the sand content, which is essential for footing and ballast for turf stability, which firms up the playing surface. By adding more sand, these fields tend to perform more like natural grass, reduce muscle fatigue and allow for better turf cleat interaction.

It is important to research, ask questions, request the safety data, and evaluate what level of safety and maintenance you are willing to take on. You can build a safe high-performance surface if you choose correctly.

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Is All Synthetic Turf the Same?

Is All Synthetic Turf the Same?

Is all synthetic turf the same?

The Sports Industry is a complex and confusing playing field that is constantly innovating, consolidating, and improving. New fibers are being introduced, new backings are being created, new infills are coming to the market and new safety data is being released, daily.

Like most things manufactured there are varying degrees of quality. To the eye, all turf may look the same, but they are drastically different. You can purchase a quality branded product where the product has been tested and designed for optimal performance, wear, and player safety; or you can purchase a flimsy fiber with poor backings that may look good for a few years, then fall apart. Doing a deep dive into the science, safety and performance can save you thousands of dollars down the road.

To select the best field for your needs it is important to understand what your goals are…do you want the safest field, the most durable field, the least expensive field, the field that is designed to play and perform most like natural grass, or the field that is designed the best for the sport(s) being played?

Once these questions have been answered, the next step is to determine what sports are being played. That answer will help determine the fiber type (Slit-film, Monofilament, or a combination of the two fibers and the fiber height). Those two things will greatly impact the ball roll, cleat interaction, durability, player safety, and longevity. For example, a football-specific turf will be quite a bit different than a baseball turf. A field hockey surface will be different than a Lacrosse field. A soccer field will be different than a football field. The fiber needs to be matched to the sport – and your goals.

In addition to the fiber type and its height, the amount of fiber in the field needs to be taken into consideration. Is a 32-ounce field better than a 64-ounce field? That depends on the system and sports being played. Just because a field has more fiber, does not mean it is a better field. Fiber type and fiber weight will impact the performance of the surface. Testing is done to determine how tall the fibers need to be (1-inch to 2.5-inches) how much infill is needed, how much fiber spacing between rows is needed, and how many total fibers are needed for that system. The fiber amount in the system can also vary due to the chemical ingredients included to make the yarn. Most fibers look the same, but it is the chemical ingredients that make the fiber last longer. (Think about plastic water bottles…there are some that are very soft and flimsy and others that are thicker and stiff. The same principles apply to making turf fibers. You can make weak, flimsy fibers, or beefy hardy ones.)

Other things that separate turf manufacture’s field quality and longevity are the backings and coating that are being used. How many backings are used in the making of the turf? What type of coating do they use? If they use multiple backings how are they joined together? How do they deal with dimensional stability? Are the fibers tufted or woven? What chemical product do they use to secure the fibers to the backing? If your fibers fall out…that’s not good!

Infill type and maintenance will have a significant impact on the performance, playability, safety, and longevity of the field you select. As will a shock pad. Each manufacture will have different recommendations based on their tested systems.

If you are working with nationally branded turf manufactures who value science, performance, and safety vs. those who push out low-quality generic fields you are better off. They are spending money on research, development, and player safety to protect their brands.

NOT all artificial turf fields are the same…in fact, they are very different. It is important to do your research and learn as much as you can about each system, before making an investment in synthetic/artificial turf.

Remember…The turf you select is only as good as the foundation that it is built upon. Always start with a good base then work up.

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What Is The Fiber Performance Index?

What Is The Fiber Performance Index?

Althoff Artificial Turf Football Field

What is the fiber performance index?

Responding to the need of architects, facility owners, and operators, Labosport is proud to introduce Fiber Performance Index (FPI) – the first true measurement of fiber quality. As part of the Labosport Certification Program, FPI establishes an “index” – a rating or score of an artificial turf fiber, to help prospective turf buyers understand and weigh the individual qualities of a turf fiber. FPI provides a comparative measuring tool to help architects, facility owners, and operators make the right artificial turf selection from a wide number of options.

The Fuber Performance Index tests and rates the following: 

TEAR – Measuring a fiber’s cross Tenacity – a key indicator of fiber durability. This test is commonly used by the plastics industry for quality control purposes.

RECOVERY – Measuring fiber resilience after an exhaustive 6,000 cycle compression test. This test uses specially designed equipment to reproduce athletes running on a field.

UV – Measuring a fiber’s resistance to UV exposure. This test is designed to match the most demanding standards in force in this domain.

FEEL – Measuring a fiber’s softness using an innovative method from the consumer goods industry. This test is conducted by qualified technicians, whose results are then processed through a statistical model to ensure repeatability and accuracy.

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What Should Be Considered When Selecting a Turf Field?

What Should Be Considered When Selecting a Turf Field?

What Should Be Considered When Selecting a Turf Field?

1. Fibers & Fiber Design

Not all artificial turf systems are created equal. Not all Fibers are created equal either. There is a tremendous amount of research, testing, and science that goes into the manufacturing and design of field fibers.

The main reason for the fiber difference is ball roll and playability. The major manufacturers want to engineer fields to play like natural grass. Baseball and soccer fields are different than football and rugby fields. Likewise, field hockey fields are different than Lacrosse fields. The fiber type impacts ball roll, resistance, and durability.

Slit Film Fibers

Consists of wider fibers designed to lay? over and encapsulate the infill, while absorbing heavy use from kicks, drags, tackles and slides. These fibers were designed to withstand the highest use and provide durable, long-lasting fields and have the longest-running tenure of fibers on the market. (The fiber is one blade)

Mono-filament

Individual monofilament fibers designed to stand upright. These are designed primarily for grass-like aesthetics and proper ball-roll. (There are multiple fibers tufted to make for a “grass-like” appearance.)

Slit Film & Mono-Filament or Combo/Hybrid

This is a combination of monofilament fibers and a slit-film fiber in the same stitch, or tuft as well as in alternating rows adjacent to each other known as “AB thread up”. These are attractive if you want infill encapsulation, durability, and ball roll.

Infill

The infill is the equivalent to the earth of a natural grass playing surface. The goal is to have the infill feel and perform like the “earth” of a natural grass field. The infill will determine how firm or fast a field plays, how the ball bounces and rolls, and infill impacts how safe the fields are. The amount of infill needed is determined by how tall the fibers are, whether or not there is a shock pad being used, the gmax implications, and the sport being played. Read more about the different types of infill here.

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What Are Some Benefits of Building an Artificial Turf Field?

What Are Some Benefits of Building an Artificial Turf Field?

What Are Some Benefits of Building an Artificial Turf Field?

Some of the benefits of building an artificial turf field include: 

HOURS OF USE – Unlike a natural grass field, you can use an artificial turf field over and over, putting hours and hours of practice and play on the surface daily. This is not possible with natural grass. Grass needs time to “heal” after each use.

MAINTENANCE – Artificial turf fields need to be maintained, but the maintenance is considerably less than natural grass. No watering, fertilizing, seeding/sodding, aerating, etc.

PLAY – Instead of having dedicated “game fields” for each sport that can only be used for game day activities, to keep the grass in playable condition, artificial turf allows multiple sports to be played on one field. It is not uncommon for an artificial turf field to be used for, band, soccer, field hockey, football, lacrosse, baseball/softball.

SPACE – If there is not a lot of available land to build dedicated fields, an artificial turf field might be the best solution. Lots of activities can be scheduled on the field.

SAFETY– A properly selected and designed field can be safer than a natural grass field. The amount of infill and use of a shock pad greatly impact the safety and playability.

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(614) 662-4572
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