Following Aaron Rodgers’ high-profile injury, is it time to rethink our usage of turf?

Jets superstar QB Aaron Rodgers is tended to by team medical personnel following his achilles tear against the Bills Monday night. The injury has sparked further discussions surrounding whether or not artificial turf fields should be in use, as opposed to natural grass.
AP Photo by Seth Wenig

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have surely seen or heard about New York Jets superstar Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles tear from Monday night, Sept. 11. The four-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion had the Jets fan base roaring heading into the season-opener, which ended after four unmemorable snaps. 

Rodgers was wrestled down on his fourth drop back by Buffalo Bills edge rusher Leonard Floyd, where you could see Rodgers’ foot get caught a moment too long in the MetLife Stadium, rain-dampened artificial turf. An MRI Tuesday confirmed what public opinion suspected: This moment had cost Rodgers his season.

Immediately after the injury and confirmation, the debate surrounding artificial turf versus natural grass fields was renewed. Rodgers’ longtime Packers teammate David Bakhtiari even tweeted the following:, expressing his disdain for the League’s usage of the playing surface.

The NFL currently boasts 15 turf fields across 30 stadiums, which cut costs and allow the stadiums to play host to a variety of events, including Taylor Swift tour stops. Mounting high-profile injuries like Rodgers’ and discussions over whether similar superstars like soccer’s Lionel Messi should even partake in games on it have recently been picking up steam.

The National Football League Players Association cited American Journal of Sports Medicine data this spring, which showed the artificial surfaces’ definite higher rates of injury compared to natural grass. These rates aren’t the only problem with the surface, either, which is incredibly stiff and often contains cancer-causing chemicals. The Carolina Panthers even failed the “Clegg” field hardness test ahead of a game they played last season and the EPA published findings in 2019 showing fields featuring crumb rubber (the common black bits component on these artificial fields) to contain chemicals known to cause cancers, impaired reproductive development and more.

An aerial view of Park City High School’s Dozier Field. Dozier Field is an artificial turf field, which helps alleviate costs and weather-related scheduling issues for the school, but has injury and potential chemical concerns.
File photo by David Jackson/Park Record

The majority of prep and college fields are now using artificial turf fields due to their aforementioned ability to cut costs. One of these programs includes Park City, whose Dozier Field is outfitted with an artificial turf surface, and whose baseball and softball programs relatively-recently launched a fundraising campaign to hopefully do the same. 

Miners Athletic Director Jamie Sheetz touched briefly upon the advantages of artificial turf for his programs, given their locations. Sheetz said in an email, “We don’t have data (as it relates to playing injuries), but we do like having turf for this climate and where the playing seasons fall.” Their baseball and softball teams will look to break ground on these new artificial diamonds if they secure the near-$3 million in funds they’re seeking.

These fields certainly cut costs and allow for winter weather schools like Park City to better manage their athletics calendars. But there may be drawbacks to consider, as well. A growing number of cities, such as Boston, are beginning to ban the future installation of such playing surfaces, which may merit attention where artificial turf currently is popular.

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