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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Grass over greed: Turf fields are ruining the NFL

Lindsey Komson

The New York Jets’ season is over.

Despite their Sept. 11 win against the Buffalo Bills, this is the last week they will be in first place. It’s not because of a dirty play, it’s because of MetLife Stadium’s turf playing surface. In the first quarter, after just four plays, quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles after a Bills sack.

Casual football fans may point fingers at the defender who prompted the injury, but fans who tune in to watch the NFL week-to-week know there is a much larger issue looming —several NFL stadiums forcing athletes to play on artificial turf.

Turf’s cushioning lessens athletes’ ability to use their bodies to absorb the force. At the professional level, there’s been a lot of stress on protecting players in recent years. It’s surprising that the correlation between artificial turf and player injuries has only come to light in the last two to three years.

The NFL’s statement relating to player safety states that the league “is committed to advancing progress in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries.”

While turf looks like a freshly cut lawn, it’s vastly different from what you’d find on a natural grass playing field. In place of real grass, turf utilizes nylon blades to create a natural grass look while avoiding the maintenance of a well-kept lawn. 

Instead of dirt, there are rubber pellets under the nylon blades to give the surface some cushion. When a player jukes on turf, their joints absorb all the force as turf has less give than natural grass.

Currently, 17 of 32 NFL teams play their home games on artificial turf in 15 different stadiums. That’s more than half of the league sending its players out to compete on turf for at least eight games during the season.

The NFL conducts a test conducted on every stadium to determine the hardness and playability of the playing surface called the Clegg test. Before a Lions-Panthers game on Dec. 24, 2022, Bank of America Stadium failed the Clegg test. Afterwards, players reached out to the Player’s Association, comparing the turf’s hardness to concrete.

So why is the NFL so resistant to making real grass the standard for all 30 NFL stadiums?

It’s estimated that replacing these 15 turf fields with real grass would cost the NFL around $12 million total. To the average American, that’s money that could last lifetimes. To the NFL, that’s pocket change. Its revenue last season was almost $12 billion. Owners need to put aside their greed and protect their players.

NFL players have been very outspoken in the grass versus turf debate and are overwhelmingly on the side of common sense – putting in real grass fields to prevent injuries that continue to occur each season.

In the 2022 NFL season, during a Week 7 game between the Chargers and Seahawks, two key players went down with knee injuries while playing on SoFi Stadium’s turf.

DK Metcalf, star receiver for the Seahawks, injured his knee when he landed in awkward fashion, causing his planted foot to slip on the turf surface.

Much like Rodgers, Metcalf was carted off the field for further evaluations. While Metcalf’s injury turned out to be minor, the same couldn’t be said for Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson, who ruptured a tendon in his knee and missed the remainder of last season.

There is no telling if these two injuries would have occurred on natural grass, but the biggest takeaway here is how both were lower-body, non-contact injuries.

In an article discussing the effects turf has on players, former NFL center and current president of the Player’s Association, JC Tretter, explained how “players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf.”

Former players aren’t the only ones talking about the ongoing grass-turf debate as many players currently on active rosters are making their opinions known through social media.

David Bakhtiari, a current Green Bay Packers offensive tackle, took to X to voice his displeasure with what 13 million people witnessed during Monday Night Football’s premiere.

“Congrats @NFL. How many more players have to get hurt on ARTIFICIAL TURF??! You care more about soccer players than us. You plan to remove all artificial turf for the World Cup coming up. So clearly it’s feasible. I’m sick of this. Do better!”

What Bakhtiari is referring to is the 2026 FIFA World Cup, set to take place in North America. 11 of the 16 stadiums hosting soccer matches are also home to NFL franchises. FIFA insisted that all matches will be played on natural grass and is requiring the seven stadiums with turf to install new fields ahead of the 2026 tournament.

Why are substandard playing conditions on turf fields OK for the NFL’s players, yet soccer players will get natural grass in three years?

In a perfect football world, every NFL snap would take place on real grass. No more preventable injuries, no more greed, no more artificial turf.

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Lindsey Komson, Associate Design Editor

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