ProPlay shock- and drainage pads prolong sports field and stadium pitch safety
Early adopters of the ProPlay shock absorbing layer are currently reaping the fruits. A growing number of installations are proving that the lifespan of ProPlay meets expectations, thereby enabling clubs and stadium owners to offer a safe and durable surface over a longer period of time and achieve significant savings when renewing their synthetic turf surfaces.
The link between sport surfaces and head injuries has, for many years, been the subject of intense debate but research by the US-based Concussion Legacy Foundation isn’t encouraging. In their 2015 paper ‘The role of synthetic turf in concussion’ they conclude that ‘contact with the playing surface may account for between 350,000 and 817,000 concussions per year in the United States’. In 2016 the Senior Vice-President for health and safety policy for the National Football League (NFL), Jeff Miller, testified before US Congress that the NFL now believes that there is a link between football and CTE, a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries. More recently, World Rugby, has also taken steps to improve the safety of fields by introducing new criteria to measure compliance in terms of the prevention of head injuries.
Advantage of an engineered system
Engineered systems like synthetic turf fields enable clubs, municipalities and stadium owners to meticulously control the quality and safety of their fields. However, like in cars or planes, the key elements that guarantee safety are often hidden out of sight. Shockpads have been around for many years but the suggestion to invest in this layer, which is placed directly under the carpet, has often been brushed aside. ‘I have had clients and architects in the past considering various pads for their projects as a way to reduce the Gmax results of their field,’ Craig Shonk of Midwest Synthetic Turf says. ‘The price of adding a pad was just simply out of their budget. As an alternative, they requested for a taller pile height turf, which allowed for more rubber to be added to the infill system. That helped lower the Gmax on the field but it also makes the field so soft under foot that you increase the fatigue in your lower body. The experience is similar to running in dry sand on a beach vs running on the wet sand.’ Shonk has become a strong advocate of using shockpads. ‘A pad gives you the reduction in Gmax results but maintains a firm and fast surface under foot because of the higher sand content in the sand/rubber infill mix. Putting a pad under the turf is always the best option, if you can afford it.’
The affordability of a shockpad should actually not be a consideration. It is common knowledge that a shockpad reduces splash of the infill, thereby reducing the need for immediate maintenance and increasing the safety of the surface. Adding a price tag to player welfare and well-being is also no longer considered appropriate in this day and age. Doubts about the ROI are also increasingly rebuked. Harding University in Arkansas, United States, is just one example of a user who experienced a soft landing when they decided to replace their synthetic turf American Football field. ‘The Harding University field was replaced in 2012,’ Craig Shonk continues. At the time Shonk was the director of operations for Prograss, the company that held the contract on the replacement of the field. ‘Once we removed the existing turf from the field, we performed an inspection and we concluded that the ProPlay shockpad that was used when the field was installed in 2005, was still in excellent shape.’ All Shonk had to do was replace the synthetic turf carpet and its infill.
Much to the relief of Shonk the Harding University field was built on ProPlay® shockpad. Thanks to their unique thickness and density ProPlay panels can take a beating, making them less vulnerable to heavy duty equipment being used on the field and eradicating driving behavior while conducting maintenance. As ProPlay panels are individually installed and each shaped like a puzzle-piece, they can easily be replaced, even when this would be a single panel in the middle of the field. ‘Throughout the turf removal and rollup process we punctured or tore a handful of panels. We ordered two pallets of new pad to replace the damaged pieces,’ Shonk admits. It turned out that the new panels blended in easily with those that had been used for eight years already. ‘We removed all panels from the field, corrected planarity issues in the old original rock base and then installed the original ProPlay back on the field. We noticed that existing ProPlay panels had not changed in size, shape or thickness over the length of time that the pad had been installed. The original pad pieces matched up perfectly with the new pieces that we had ordered. The transition process was smooth and installer-friendly.’
Best of two worlds
ProPlay combines various advantages in many ways. ‘The shock- and drainage pads are produced from foam products that, for one or another reason, ended up not being used,’ Jens Ulb of Schmitz Foam Products explains. ProPlay panels are just one example of how Schmitz Foam Products revitalizes foam products produced by different producers. ‘All these products already passed the stringent quality tests at their respective producers. They provide us with the perfect raw material for our product and enable us to produce a superior shock absorbing panel with unique drainage capabilities.’ As Schmitz Foam Products is not reliant on virgin raw materials, the company’s CO2 footprint is also limited. ‘Best of all is that we prevent quality products that were not used for their intended purpose, from ending up in the waste-stream.’
The panels are made of cross-linked, closed cell polymers. ‘This means that they will not absorb water or moisture thereby guaranteeing that their performance will not be affected even when temperatures drop below freezing. Moreover the ProPlay serves as a perfect horizontal and vertical drainage system, capable of handling the heaviest rains or downpours around the globe.’ It is for that reason Schmitz Foam Products is comfortable with guaranteeing the quality of ProPlay for 25 years minimum.
In late 2017 Schmitz Foam Products expanded its production capacity by opening a new plant in North-America. ‘Our plant in Roermond has been servicing the world for the past 30 years but in an attempt to really commit Schmitz Foam Products to the market in North American it was decided to open a factory in the US too. That makes the company truly unique as many companies only see North America as a big market where they can sell their product but fail to provide support or service,’ US factory president, Erguen Oezcan says. ‘The new factory makes it easier for us to pick up local trends and to respond to the market. It also enables us to show customers how ProPlay is produced.’
The US branch sources its raw materials locally. ‘One of the key components is sourced from our plant in Roermond in the Netherlands. This to ensure the same quality standards in both our factories. We have also adopted European quality tests as their quality legislation is superior. However, our raw materials as well as labor and equipment are all sourced in North America,’ he adds.
Craig Shonk is convinced that the use of affordable and durable shockpads underneath synthetic turf fields will become inevitable. ‘As more people learn about concussion in sports and the potential impact that synthetic turf fields have on concussions, the overall awareness to find better solutions in turf systems is leading to more clients purchasing or budgeting for pads.’ He also believes that shockpads eventually will become the norm in North America too. ‘As more fields go in with pads, it makes it harder for neighboring districts or neighboring teams to not do a pad.’ That leaves them with only one option. ‘Because budgets are typically a huge factor in the decision-making process, I believe that many clients will lean towards ProPlay because of their overall value.’
To find the nearest ProPlay installation close to you, check our reference locator or request a digital copy of our reference book.