Across the country playing fields are being changed over from traditional grass to artificial turf. These surfaces have come a long way from the rough and hard AstroTurf of the 1970s, and are so similar to real grass that it is difficult to tell the difference. There are a lot of benefits to using an artificial turf playing field, but there are also some serious downsides as well.
Benefits of Artificial Turf
One of the biggest drawbacks of having a traditional grass playing field is the amount of time and money it takes to maintain. With artificial turf there is a one-time labor intensive installation process, and then maintenance is essentially nothing. Mowing, watering, and weeding are no longer a problem, and the lines on the field are basically permanent. Over the long term, these fields save money.
Artificial turf can actually be easier on the players as well. With consistent padding throughout the field, there are no rough or hard spots to land on. There are no rocks that work their way to the surface, and when it is raining mud puddles dont form. The surface is always the same no matter what time of year.
In areas that receive a lot of sunlight and heat, areas that receive a lot of snow, and areas that receive vast amounts of rain all benefit from having artificial turf playing fields because of the benefits.
Pitfalls of Artificial Turf
The downsides of having artificial turf cannot be overlooked. The costs are a huge factor. While in the long run artificial playing fields do indeed save money, it can take a couple of decades to recoup the initial expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Besides the monetary factors, there is a certain appeal to playing on natural grass. The unevenness, and unpredictability that is provides only adds to the sport. Besides, anyone who has played on grass will tell you they much prefer the smell of grass and dirt to the smell of rubber under the scorching sun.
There are health aspects to take into consideration as well. While packed dirt is not easy to fall on, rubber tends to stick to the skin and provide more tears and abrasions. Grass and dirt give a little, rubber does not. On top of that there is the consideration that crumb rubber, little rubber pellets made from car and truck tires that are sprinkled between the blades of synthetic grass, contain carcinogenic chemicals. This crumb rubber is often swallowed or inhaled while playing, and there have been reports that athletes end up with blood cancer due to frequent exposure.
Playing on Artificial Turf
There are pros and cons to anything we do in life. We have to weigh the risks and determine if the benefits outweigh the risks. If you have played on artificial turf, have you noticed that it is easier, or more difficult to play on?