TheNews-Messenger.com—August 29, 2013
Dr. Mark Drakos, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, shares his thoughts on the effects of artificial turf on athletes. Dr. Drakos specializes in disorders of the foot and ankle as well as sports related injuries.
Differences of turf
AstroTurf had no fill or substance between the short fibers, and initially, there was no padding under the surface. As a result, balls took bad hops and players had a variety of injuries, including rug burn and “turf toe,” ligament sprains around the big toe.
The second generation of artificial turf used padding under the turf surface, and sand as fill. It was a little better, but had its own problems — and potential for injuries as well.
Most of the recent turf installations for high school, college and professional fields are third-generation artificial turf.
Those surfaces have longer blades to simulate real grass, and the fill is a combination of sand and recycled rubber — giving players an extra spring. Also, the turf’s got a higher friction coefficient, allowing for players to plant their feet and cut more quickly.
Mark Drakos, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, has studied the effects of turf on athletes. Drakos, who played college football at Harvard, understands its appeal to coaches and players.
“The reason, I think, players like it is that it enhances performance,” he said.
And that’s just one of the reasons artificial turf has become popular.
But doctors remain cautious, and continue to study the effects playing on turf could have on student-athletes.
When Drakos played football, he noticed his joints hurt more after playing on artificial turf.
Drakos, who specializes in sports medicine and foot and ankle injuries, has studied artificial turf and the effects that it has on athletes. He was the lead writer for “Synthetic Playing Surfaces and Athlete Health,” published in May in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
“Artificial surfaces are attractive to administrators because of the potential for decreased costs and maintenance,” Drakos wrote. “However, this enthusiasm should be tempered by the potential increase in injury risk in elite athletes.”
Drakos’ article said the effects of turf on high school athletes isn’t fully understood at this point, not just because it’s new, but because it’s difficult to isolate turf as a potential cause for injuries.
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