Is grass better than synthetic turf such as astro, 3G or 4G?

Synthetic surfaces are in the news again. This time FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association are being sued after their decision to use artificial turf at venues for the Women's world cup on the basis of gender discrimination.

There are plenty of reasons to use artificial turf in Canada, not least the weather. Most of their grounds have astro already, but it would it really be that hard to lay grass over the pitches just for the world cup? It would be unthinkable for the men's world cup to be played on astro; but women are expected to compromise. However, synthetic surfaces are becoming more commonplace at elite level, with some Champions Leagues played on synthetic surfaces. So does it really matter what surface you play on?

From an injury perspective it seems that playing on synthetic surfaces could be one factor which increases the risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damage, patella tendonitis and achilles tendonitis. A review in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (2014) found that ACL injuries were more common in American Football players when playing on astro and 3G pitches compared to grass.
For many of us we don't have a choice about what kind of surface we play on, so what tips are there to help prevent injury?

Make sure that you have the correct footwear for the surface you are playing on. Synthetic surfaces can be slippery so you may need more grip than is provided by running trainers. But some turfs can be damaged by studs so footwear specifically designed for astro or off road trail trainers may be best.

Make sure that the volume of workload on synthetic surfaces doesn't jump up too quickly. Try to build up the amount of time you are spending on synthetic surfaces slowly. If you do other training sessions in the week try to use lower impact surfaces such as in water or on grass.

Optimum Performance can provide you with a biomechanical analysis to check your technique and develop a programme of strengthening and mobilising exercises to help protect against injury.
And remember – don't let an injury get worse, have it checked out as soon as possible, and you could soon be back to your best.

 

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