How to Maintain a Safe Synthetic-Turf Field

How to Maintain a Safe Synthetic-Turf Field

It is a common misconception that synthetic-turf fields do not require much in the way of maintenance. While maintenance is reduced when compared to what is necessary for natural-grass fields, it cannot be eliminated. I recently published an article on this subject in Parks and Rec Business magazine. In the article (titled, “Safeguard Your Assets”) I outline the simple yet important steps that an owner or operator should take to inspect and maintain a synthetic-turf field.

The article describes how impact testing, monitoring infill depth, sweeping and grooming, and keeping an inspection and maintenance log are essential tasks that every owner should perform diligently. These tasks will help prevent injuries, and keeping track of these responsibilities will be important to reference should a warranty-related issue arise. The article also describes common-sense measures that can be taken to maintain a synthetic-turf field and addresses concerns about heat-related issues.

Maintenance for a synthetic-turf field shouldn’t be expensive. On a cost-per-play basis, synthetic turf is less expensive to maintain than a natural grass installation — as much as 70 or even 80 percent less, according to a University of California (Berkeley) study.

Safety is an Essential Focus

Organizations that are looking to build or improve an athletic field regularly ask about field safety. Which is safer, synthetic turf or natural grass? The answer to that question is not an either/or proposition, given the advancements in synthetic turf quality.

In fact, as noted previously on this blog, a poorly maintained natural grass athletic field can become overly compacted and uneven, which leads to an increased risk for concussive injury and sprains. On the other hand, a well-designed synthetic turf field has been shown to have a lower incidence of common sports injuries. Research is not yet conclusive; however, a peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine  found 12 percent fewer concussions and 32 percent fewer ligament tears on synthetic turf compared to natural grass.

Thus, addressing safety concerns is less about the surface type and more about completing the required maintenance to keep the field safe. Neither natural grass nor synthetic surf will be safe if they are not maintained. If a field is designed appropriately and the required maintenance is performed, the field type should not particularly matter other than preference.

A quality athletic field starts with good planning and design and ends with proper maintenance. For owners and designers of synthetic turf fields, the goal should be to design a field that best mimics the best natural grass fields in aesthetics and performance.

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Recreational Facilities

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