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Sir Isaac Newton Says it's Time for Artificial Grass to go

Sir Isaac Newton Says it’s Time for Artificial Grass to Go

The Aaron Rodgers injury has ignited a long overdue debate—should football rid itself of artificial grass? The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has stated what its members have known for a long time: the stuff is dangerous and it’s time to get rid of it.

When asked about the dangers of artificial grass, Commissioner Roger Goodell hedged by saying that we need to look at the “science” and hear from “experts”. There’s no doubt that the owners as well as the manufacturers and installers of artificial grass will hire experts to make the claim that it is as safe or safer than real grass. These experts, no matter how well credentialed, will have only one motive—money. Given that the majority of football fields in this country are now artificial grass, an enormous amount of money is at stake. Every trial lawyer who has litigated a product liability case knows that there are experts who will sell their professional souls. To think otherwise is naïve.

While the proponents of artificial grass will retain experts, there are three experts that no hired gun can dispute.

Mr. Goodell, in his interview with Stephen A. Smith, made the claim, without naming any names, that some of the players like it because it’s faster. Therein lies the danger of artificial grass and the testimony of an irrefutable expert. That expert’s name is Sir Isaac Newton, who postulated in 1687 that force equals mass times acceleration. Football is a collision sport played by players who are bigger and faster than ever, thus increasing both mass and acceleration. Because of the size and speed of today’s players, the forces on their bodies have increased dramatically. Like a 50-mph automobile crash versus a 20-mph fender bender, the collisions and forces on player’s bodies are more violent than those in the past. Any playing surface that makes the game faster makes it more dangerous.

To make the game safer, it needs to be slowed down, which brings in the second irrefutable expert: Mother Nature. No expert, no matter how well paid, can opine with a straight face that it will never rain or snow. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to know that as real grass gets wet, it gets softer, and the game slows down. Soft grass equates to fewer non-contact injuries and less violent collisions. Mother Nature and Sir Isaac say the same thing: a grass field is safer.

The last experts are the players themselves. According to a 2010 NFLPA survey, 89.7% of players stated that natural grass is safer; 89.1% believe that artificial turf causes more soreness and fatigue; and 64.4% believe that playing on turf will negatively affect their quality of life after football. As recently as last year, Aaron Rodgers stated that natural grass is safer.

As stewards of the game, the NFL sets the standards that high schools and colleges emulate, making this issue more than a debate between millionaire players and billionaire owners. There are 893 colleges and 14,247 high schools that play football, the majority of which have followed the NFL’s lead and use artificial grass. Close to one million young men play the game, a number that is dwindling as parents are concerned for their sons’ safety. Every day some young person gets unnecessarily injured on artificial grass, and some of them will carry the effects for the rest of their lives.

The CTE concussion problem is real, and making the game faster can only aggravate this issue. Other issues stem from artificial turf: burns, excessive heat, skin abrasions, and turf toe, an injury that results from excessive traction. More ominously, synthetic turf contains carcinogens and neurotoxins such as lead, mercury, cadmium, VOCs and benzene, to name a few, which are detrimental to both people and the environment. The argument is clear: on one hand, there is money, and on the other, there’s the health and welfare of thousands of people from the multi-millionaire pro to the littlest Pop Warner player. These young people, their parents and the game deserve better.

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