Background: Numerous injuries have been attributed to playing on artificial turf. Recently, FieldTurf was developed to duplicate the playing characteristics of natural grass. No long-term study has been conducted comparing game-related, high school football injuries between the 2 playing surfaces.
Hypothesis: High school athletes would not experience any difference in the incidence, causes, and severity of game-related injuries between FieldTurf and natural grass.
Study design: Prospective cohort study.
Methods: A total of 8 high schools were evaluated over 5 competitive seasons for injury incidence, injury category, time of injury, injury time loss, player position, injury mechanism, primary type of injury, grade and anatomical location of injury, type of tissue injured, head and knee trauma, and environmental factors.
Results: Findings per 10 team games indicated total injury incidence rates of 15.2 (95% confidence interval, 13.7-16.4) versus 13.9 (95% confidence interval, 11.9-15.6). Minor injury incidence rates of 12.1 (95% confidence interval, 10.5-13.6) versus 10.7 (95% confidence interval, 8.7-12.7), substantial injury incidence rates of 1.9 (95% confidence interval, 1.4-2.6) versus 1.3 (95% confidence interval, 0.8-2.1), and severe injury incidence rates of 1.1 (95% confidence interval, 0.7-1.7) versus 1.9 (95% confidence interval 1.2-2.8) were documented on FieldTurf versus natural grass, respectively. Multivariate analyses indicated significant playing surface effects by injury time loss, injury mechanism, anatomical location of injury, and type of tissue injured. Higher incidences of 0-day time loss injuries, noncontact injuries, surface/epidermal injuries, muscle-related trauma, and injuries during higher temperatures were reported on FieldTurf. Higher incidences of 1- to 2-day time loss injuries, 22+ days time loss injuries, head and neural trauma, and ligament injuries were reported on natural grass.
Conclusions: Although similarities existed between FieldTurf and natural grass over a 5-year period of competitive play, both surfaces also exhibited unique injury patterns that warrant further investigation.