Make your home page

Purdue expert weighs in on grass vs. turf debate

Purdue expert weighs in on grass vs. turf debate

INDIANAPOLIS — Real grass or artificial turf? That debate is happening right now in the NFL as injuries stack up on the field.

I-Team 8 spoke with a Professor Cale Bigelow at Purdue University, who is an expert in the field of turf science, to see which surface is better to play on. Bigelow said that this is a very complicated and nuanced topic because there’s pros and cons to both artificial turf and real grass.

Lucas Oil stadium is one of 15 stadiums in the NFL that has artificial turf. Part of the debate surrounding the grass vs. turf is the cost to the owners. “The natural grass field is going to be less expensive to maintain long term, and what I mean by that is that the cost of the install on the synthetic fields is very, very high up front. The cost to maintain on an annual basis is less than it would be for a natural grass field,” said Bigelow.

“Is it even possible for them to have real grass in there [Lucas Oil Stadium],” asked I-Team 8 reporter Kody Fisher.

“They could do natural grass in there, however, they would need to replace it periodically. More often then they probably would like, and with a stadium like Lucas Oil Stadium there for lots of events and they do what they can to try and maximize that facility for our community. It would be a lot of work, but it is possible. It only takes time and money,” said Bigelow.

According to Bigelow, artificial turf gives a stadium a level of consistency for events ranging from football to concerts, which is why a lot of stadiums have it.

The other part of the grass vs turf debate centers around player safety and injuries. Players have said injuries happen less often on real grass.

“The data is not a complete data set, but there is some data that trends towards lower body injuries being higher on the synthetic surfaces,” said Bigelow.

“Why is that data set not complete?” asked Fisher.

“The data set is as not clear cut as ‘it’s synthetic, or it’s natural grass,’ There’s a lot of other potentially complicating factors. How heavy was the athlete? The gender of the athlete. What specific sport was it? What time of year was it? How was the field maintained? We do know that there are some gender differences. We do know that there are some sports differences with respect to soccer vs. American football, and you can kind of go down the list. Is it a concussion type of thing? Is it an elbow thing? Is it a knee thing? To simply just say, ‘more injuries over here, less injuries over here,’ They’re still filtering through that data. It’s not a complete set yet,” said Bigelow.

Bigelow said it’s possible that more NFL teams will do trial runs with real grass in the near future as this debate continues.