With the upcoming women’s World Cup, soccer fans around the world have been fixated on one of the major differences that this year’s World Cup will bring to the pitch, turf fields. Turf has emerged as a top option in many areas. Some of its major advantages over grass include its consistency as a medium, making for a smooth even playing surface that doesn’t surprise players as grass can. Another advantage is that turf requires little maintenance and is not as sensitive as grass, making it great for wet conditions where playing on grass could result in ruining the field. In hot climates turf is often non-ideal as underneath the blades of artificial grass is rubber that can heat up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day as opposed to soil which can heat up to about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. While it emulates grass quite well, turf is a considerably different medium and can change the game significantly.
Playing on turf is different in several ways; it changes the pace of the game, the rate at which players slide-tackle, and potentially the amount of time it takes for players to recover after each game. The consistently short blades of grass and consistency of the field (free from ruts and bumps) allow the ball to move quickly and easily across the surface, allowing for faster movement. Players are also less inclined to slide-tackle, a common defensive play especially at the high level, due to the fact that turf is much rougher and less forgiving than grass and sliding on it often results in painful turf burns. Additionally some studies on American football have found that ACL injuries are more common on turf fields than grass fields. American soccer player Alex Morgan has said quite a bit on the difference between turf and grass, commenting that “When I play on turf, my legs can pulse and ache for up to 24 hours and it could take 3-5 days to recover, whereas grass, after 24 hours I’m ready to play again.”. Finally one of the health concerns related to turf has to do with the rubber beads that soften the turf. These beads are made of chopped up scrap rubber that contains carcinogens, which have been shown to cause cancer after significant exposure.
All-in-all, turf is a considerably different medium than grass. With a faster pace of play, a different feel to the ground, and a potentially more dangerous surface turf will prove to be an interesting addition to the game at a global scale during the womens World Cup. Hopefully this will result in a greater amount of information about turf, including the benefits and the risk that it poses.