Former Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr. Tears his ACL on turf field after a grueling first half.
Fans and players alike have been campaigning for the removal of artificial turf on NFL fields for many years. Players have expressed how much they dislike playing on grass. Travis Kelce once stated: “I think it's silly. The ground's harder when you hit it, more concussions happen on turf because of how the players' helmets hit the ground. Some cleats grab more, some cleats sit on top of the turf differently to make it more of an unstable surface.” Players want grass fields instead of turf fields.Why? Because of the abundance of injuries on artificial turf fields. The executive director of the NFLPA, Lloyd Howell, even mentioned, “The data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf… we know there is an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries.”
On artificial turf, players experience non-contact knee injuries at a 32 percent higher rate, non-contact lower extremity injuries at a 28 percent higher rate, and an astounding 69 percent higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries, as opposed to grass. Knee and ankle injuries in particular can destroy a player's career. Running Backs in particular aren’t paid a lot of money because of the amount of ankle and knee injuries they suffer. Injuries also jeopardize the legitimacy of the NFL. In Super Bowl 56, Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL after an intense start to the game. To make it worse, Odell’s torn ACL was non-contact on artificial turf. Odell was on pace for over about 200 yards, if he accomplished this feat, the Bengals may have never had a chance to win, and Odell would’ve won Super Bowl MVP over Cooper Kupp. Odell’s injury is one of the biggest what-ifs in recent Super Bowl memory.
Why do teams even use artificial turf? Right now, 14 of the 30 NFL stadiums use artificial turf because of the low maintenance it requires. Artificial turf costs 6-10 thousand dollars a year to maintain, while grass costs 18 to 44 thousand. However, grass is much cheaper to install, costing 400 to 820 thousand dollars to install compared to artificial turf cost of 750 thousand to 1.35 million dollars. But at the end of the day, is artificial turf a good long term investment with all of the injuries that occur? No. According to Forbes, there is a “significantly greater deceleration impact on turf than on grass.” This means turf fields create a harder surface for players to land. In 2021, the NFL had to dish out 1 billion dollars to current and former players due to concussion settlements, and there is no doubt that future deals will be made costing the NFL more money. With 20 percent of concussion resulting from the player hitting their head on the playing surface, there is no doubt that playing on turf can lead to concussion and eventually, CTE. So even if the NFL completely disregarded player safety, it doesn’t make any financial sense for the NFL to keep turf fields.
At the end of the day, the NFL is a business that needs to make money. If a star player gets injured, ticket and merchandise sales decrease. Nobody wants to buy jerseys of players that don’t play, and no fan wants to watch their favorite team without their star quarterback. Plus, after a star player is injured, the NFL might have to pay large sums of money to players through injury settlements. The NFL needs to make the change to natural grass fields and take care of their players.