Virginia Tech experts weigh in on artificial turf injuries

BLACKSBURG, Va.New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for the rest of the 2023 NFL season after suffering a tear in his Achilles tendon.

Data from the National Center for Health Research shows the rate of an Achilles injury is twice as likely on artificial fields than it is on grass.

While almost all injuries are at an increase, Virginia Tech experts at the Turfgrass Research Center said these playing surfaces are not going away anytime soon.

“Synthetic turf definitely continues to be on the increase in terms of popularity,” said Mike Goatley, a Turfgrass Extension specialist at Virginia Tech. “The main thing is that it is being touted as zero to low maintenance.”

He also said he understands why athletes prefer one over the other.

“The athletes themselves will talk about just how they can feel when they play on synthetic – how it tires their muscles out,” said Goatley.

Experts are working to slow down this rate of injury.

“We continue to try and figure out what is that best footing, what is that best surface,” said Goatley.

Some athletes do not mind turf, but others have seen some of the issues turf fields can cause.

“Synthetic turf, it’s not going anywhere,” said Ava Veith, a Virginia Tech women’s soccer player. “All the energy is being sent right back up through your ankle ligaments.”

She said playing on turf versus grass can be completely different.

She has even seen injuries she believes are due to the artificial surfaces.

“One of my teammates partially tore her Achilles this spring just by taking off on a sprint,” said Veith.

And it was not only the one teammate.

“Immediately a lot of my teammates were complaining about shin splints and stuff like that just from the change of surface,” said Veith.

Goatley said one-way athletes can reduce injuries is by wearing the right footwear for the fields.

About the Author

Thomas grew up right here in Roanoke and is a graduate of Salem High School and Virginia Tech.

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