Background: Numerous injuries have been attributed to playing on artificial turf. More recently, FieldTurf was developed to duplicate the playing characteristics of natural grass. No long-term studies have been conducted comparing game-related collegiate football injuries between the 2 playing surfaces.
Hypothesis: Collegiate athletes do not experience any difference in the incidence, mechanisms, and severity of game-related injuries between FieldTurf and natural grass.
Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: Twenty-four universities were evaluated over 3 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, trauma (head, knee, and shoulder), and environmental factors.
Results: In sum, 465 collegiate games were evaluated for game-related football injuries sustained on FieldTurf or natural grass during 3 seasons. Overall, 230 team games (49.5%) were played on FieldTurf versus 235 team games (50.5%) played on natural grass. A total of 2253 injuries were documented, with 1050 (46.6%) occurring during play on FieldTurf, and 1203 (53.4%) on natural grass. Multivariate analysis per 10 team games indicated significantly lower total injury incidence rates, F(3, 2249) = 3.468, P = .016, n - beta = 0.778, on FieldTurf, 45.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 44.2-46.3), versus natural grass, 51.2 (95% CI, 49.8-51.7). Significantly lower minor injury incidence rates, 38.0 (95% CI, 36.9-38.5) versus 39.9 (95% CI, 39.1-40.0, P = .001), substantial injury incidence rates, 5.0 (95% CI, 4.3-5.6) versus 7.2 (95% CI, 6.6-7.7, P = .020), and severe injury incidence rates, 2.7 (95% CI, 2.1-3.3) versus 4.1 (95% CI, 3.5-4.1; P = .049), were documented on FieldTurf versus natural grass, respectively. Multivariate analyses also indicated significantly less trauma on FieldTurf when comparing injury time loss, injury situation, grade of injury, injuries under various field conditions, and temperature. No significant differences in head, knee, or shoulder trauma were observed between playing surfaces.
Conclusion: FieldTurf is in many cases safer than natural grass. It must be reiterated, however, that the findings of this study may be generalizable to only this level of competition. Because this study is still in the early stages, investigation is ongoing.