Artificial Grass and ACL Injuries: Is There a Direct Correlation?

Artificial Grass and ACL Injuries: Is There a Direct Correlation?

Artificial grass has become a popular alternative to natural grass in recent years. As Synthetic turf pitches evolved from the original 3G versions to the more sophisticated 4G designs lots of sports clubs both professional and amateur installed artificial grass surfaces. The major benefits of an artificial grass surface are its durability, low maintenance requirements, and its ability to withstand even the most inclement weather conditions. This lead to a significant reduction in postponements and provided many clubs with an added income stream. However, there is growing concern that artificial grass may be linked to an increased risk of ACL injuries. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the research on this topic and see if there is indeed a direct correlation between artificial grass and ACL injuries.

There has been a great deal of research on this topic, and the results are mixed. Some studies have found that there is a link between artificial grass and ACL injuries, while other studies have not found that link to be tenuous at best and that just as many ACL injuries occur when the sport is played on traditional turf pitches. So, we thought we would have a look at some research to see we can come to any sort of conclusion.

What is an ACL Injury and How Does it Happen

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) plays a vital role in stabilising the knee. An ACL injury can affect anyone, but because of the nature of what they do athletes are particularly prone to it. The ligament can be torn as a result of direct impact or a sudden twist of the knee, and when this happens surgery will almost always be required to be followed by a period of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Once someone has suffered an ACL injury there is always the chance that it will reoccur. This is why the rehabilitation period tends to be longer than will other injuries, with the physiotherapy process focuses on reducing this risk and allowing the patient to resume everyday activities and hopefully their participation in their chosen sport.

Artificial Turf and ACL Injuries

So, what is it about the makeup of artificial grass that leads to athletes such as football and rugby players being more susceptible to serious knee injuries. Injuries on artificial turf are often caused by prolonged friction between your shoes and the artificial grass – when your foot is planted on the ground, it becomes more firmly embedded in it. As a result any twisting of your upper body will lead to much greater stress being placed on your ACL, meaning there is a much greater risk of it becoming torn. Where natural grass is concerned, the planted foot is able to move more easily significantly reducing the amount of stress on the knee helping lower the risk of injury. Research seems to indicate that the risk of ACL injuries increases during periods of hot weather as lack of moisture in the surface leads to increased friction increasing the risks.

Why Have ACL Injuries Become More Commonplace

Over recent years there seem to have been an increase in the number of ACL injuries especially in Rugby and football, while we feel that artificial grass pitches may be a contributory factor, there are other things to take into consideration. Over recent years the size of athletes in all sports has increased significantly. More advanced training methods and a greater focus on strength, conditioning and speed training means that collisions are now much more severe than they used to be. This in itself means that direct contact or twists now happen at much higher speed which increases the possibility of injury. In rugby for example when a player is tackled the force being exerted on the knee is much greater than it used to be. This is exactly the same in football where a coming together happens at much greater speed and force. Players also seem to jump higher now which in turn places more stress on the knee when landing.

To Finish

So, what have we learned? Well while we believe that artificial grass can be a contributory factor when it comes to ACL injuries it is definitely not the only one. I think we have to accept that sport in general both amateur and professional has become quicker and more intense and as a result the chance of injury has naturally increased.