In recent years, there has been an increase in the debate as to whether or not synthetic turf truly has an impact on professional athletes and their injuries. The main issue about turf is that there is a direct relationship between non-contact injuries and artificial grass. The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) has released data to defend their claim, in hopes of changing the playing surface for all NFL games.

Aaron Rodgers takes it all in prior to his first snap as a New York Jet. Photo: @nyjets on Instagram

Feb. 13, 2022: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL while making a routine catch. Towards the beginning of Super Bowl LVI, Beckham Jr. was off to a fantastic start: reeling in two catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. While attempting to make his third catch of the night, Beckham Jr. appeared to grab his knee and slowly fall to the ground. He was later ruled out with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). Super Bowl LVI was held at Sofi Stadium, a brand-new synthetic turf field. Following the injury, many athletes resorted to Twitter to make their voices heard: “Turf should be banned @NFL” declared San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, and, former NFL running back Mark Ingram II stated, “ [NFL players] make wayyyy too much money not to have us playing on natural grass every week.”

Sep. 11, 2023: In his New York Jets debut, quarterback Aaron Rodgers tears his Achilles less than four minutes into the first game of his Jets career. There was a lot of hype surrounding the Jets trading for Rodgers over the summer. Jets fanatics believed that this was “their year” as two of their players were named 2023 Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, and the addition of Rodgers made for a very promising season. While rolling out of the pocket, Rodgers was sacked by a Buffalo Bills defender, and viewers could see his Achilles tear on air. Members of the NFLPA were once again furious, Rodgers’s teammate, Breece Hall, was quoted saying “Grass. That’s my answer. We want grass. I busted my knee on turf. I want grass” when asked whether he prefers turf or grass. Additionally, Rodgers’s former teammate, David Bakhtiari said, “No one enjoys playing on it. Everyone is too scared to talk about it. NFL, just do better, be better, be an advocate for us and help us out.”

Sep. 18, 2023: Cleveland Browns Pro-Bowl running back Nick Chubb tore his Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and partially tore his ACL  against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Turf is not the only cause of major injuries in the NFL. Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick made a low hit against Chubb. On sight, he appeared to break and tear every bone and ligament in Chubb’s left knee. Former defensive end JJ Watt expressed his condolences for Chubb, “Just the worst feeling. Gutted for Nick Chubb. Hope Minkah is ok. Injuries suck man. They absolutely suck.” Chubb’s injury not only affected the NFL world but all sports in the United States and around the globe; Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James said, “DAMN MAN!!!! [Praying for] Nick Chubb. Praying for the absolute best.”

In general, it is clear that synthetic turf is an issue. It has been proven that players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact leg injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.

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