Report: NFL data shows number of non-contact injuries were almost the same on grass, turf in 2021

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NFL players have been vocal in their support of grass playing fields and their opposition to artificial turf. Cooper Kupp, George Kittle and De'Vondre Campbell are among those who recently have expressed a desire to play every game on a natural playing surface after seeing season-ending injuries to teammates on artificial playing surfaces.

On his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones dismissed the idea of every stadium going to natural grass, citing “league stats.”

Kevin Seifert of ESPN reviewed the internal NFL data Jones referenced.

Per Seifert, the NFL and NFLPA contract a third-party company called IQVIA to compile and analyze data on every injury during every season. Their joint Surfaces Committee uses the data to compare injuries in each of the league’s 30 stadiums.

The committee presented findings to owners during last month’s meeting in New York.

The data showed that as recently as 2019 that non-contact injuries were “notably” higher on artificial turf fields compared to grass, per Seifert. But the difference between the surfaces began narrowing in 2020, and last season, the numbers were “almost the same.”

The incident rate for artificial turf in 2021 was.042 per 100 and .041 per 100 for grass surfaces.

That ratio “replicated” during the 2022 preseason, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, told Seifert.

“The takeaway from all of this data is that the discussion between synthetic surfaces and natural grass surfaces isn’t really the argument,” Miller said. “What we’re trying to do is decrease injuries on both. As a general matter, looking at synthetic versus natural doesn’t really provide us the information we need to try to drive those injury rates down.”

Stadiums with artificial surfaces replace their turf every 2-3 years, per Miller.

11 responses to “Report: NFL data shows number of non-contact injuries were almost the same on grass, turf in 2021

  1. Fine, but can we see the breakdown of these injuries. Were serious knee injuries the same, or other less-serious injuries? All injuries aren’t the same. I don’t care about pulled muscles. I want to know about season ending knee injuries. Also, all artificial turf is not the same. There might be a particular surface that’s better than grass, or better than all the other artificial turfs. Maybe there’s nothing to it, but I’d like to see more details facts. Cleats probably matter, too. I’m sure the Player’s Union has these facts, right? They’re paid to look out for the players. They must have this information. Why don’t we ask them.

  2. It seems like a lot of kickers have gone on IR despite the consistency of footing on all playing surfaces. I wonder what that is all about? They aren’t getting injuries from being hit.

  3. I think if the numbers are truly that similar, what everyone should really research is the growing number of investigations that the tiny black pellets (called crumb rubber) you see come up in the turf contain possible carcinogens and may cause significant health issues.

  4. There most definitely is a difference in the two fields. I’m faster on turf, so is everyone else. We’re faster on it because of better traction. Better traction is great…but when you stop or change direction quickly, bam! That better grip was too much for the tendons and ligaments. Happened to me soon after they installed the new turf. A good grass field has just enough give…usually. it does and always will happen on grass too. But there’s no way you could convince me there’s no difference.

  5. Even in the best climates without a dome, grass wants sun and air that’s hard to get in NFL sized stadiums with good sight lines.

    Unless the State Farm Stadium retractable field in suburban Phoenix can be replicated everywhere, there’s going to be bad grass, bad stadiums, or artificial turf, and just one of those if you’re lucky.

  6. If they’re just counting number of “incidents”, and not weighting them by severity, then they’re not really assessing the problem. But this is one of those questions where the NFL doesn’t really want the real answer.

  7. Their joint Surfaces Committee uses the data to compare injuries in each of the 30 stadiums the league plays in, paying particular attention to injuries that occur without contact and could potentially be attributed to the surface itself. Those injuries are classified as non-contact and to the lower extremities: knees, ankles and feet. ESPN obtained a chart that plotted those injuries over the past four seasons.

    So the takeaway is that it doesn’t increase the frequency according to their study. However it does NOT take into account severity. Sounds like NFL doesn’t want to shell out $ for grass so it’s time for PR to earn their money.

  8. Incident rate doesn’t tell me much other than how many incidents. What does the data show about the severity of the injuries on both surfaces?

  9. The surface does not matter. The problem is players opting for cleats that will hook up on all surfaces. The NFL should mandate cleats being used. Would stop most of the injuries.

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