American football on synthetic turf

The NFL Players Association says that the dataset used by the NFL to claim that synthetic turf surfaces are as safe as natural turf surfaces does not reflect the whole picture. The NFLPA calls the data an ‘outlier.’

Tension is running high in the United States, with a growing number of American Football players blaming the league organiser NFL for injuries sustained on synthetic turf. One player has even gone as far as invoking the ‘duty of care’ responsibility that is often claimed in occupational health and safety disputes.

In November last year, the NFL released data that suggested that injury rates on grass and synthetic turf are very similar. The NFLPA is now blaming the NFL for only releasing injury data from the 2021 season, when injury rates on turf were similar to synthetic turf. “Instead of following the long-term data (which is clear on this issue), listening to players and making the game safer,” NFLPA President J.C. Tretter wrote in a letter published on the NFLPA website, “the NFL used an outlier year to engage in a PR campaign to convince everyone that the problem doesn’t actually exist. In short, last year, the gap – much like the NFL’s credibility with players on this issue – was as wide as it has ever been, proving that (as the NFLPA suspected) 2021 was, in fact, an outlier. Now, 10 of the previous 11 years show the same exact thing – grass is a significantly safer surface than turf.”

NFL disagrees

NFL’s executive vice president Jeff Miller has responded by saying, “The NFL and the NFLPA have access to the same injury information, which is collected by independent experts and shared at the CBA-mandated Joint Field Surface Safety and Performance Committee meetings. The committee, including the NFLPA’s experts, believe that simply playing on natural grass is not the answer to this complex challenge. Some artificial turf surfaces have a lower injury rate than some grass fields – and some grass fields have a lower injury rate than some artificial surfaces. Our goal is to decrease injuries on all surfaces. There are no simple answers, but we are committed to the substantial, ongoing work with the players and their expert advisors to make the game safer.”

More testing

Tretter is having none of it. He has now asked the NFL to not allow games to be played on fields with clear visual abnormalities. He also wants the NFL to raise the field standards and test the safety and performance of all field surfaces.

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