Choosing field surfaces that protect athletes and the bottom line

As the level of play from student athletes continues to advance, so too should the performance of sports facilities. Every detail counts, and having trusted, experienced partners in the A/E industry can help districts, colleges, and universities make the right call for their competitors, coaches, and fans.

Synthetic turf: do the stats line up?

At ISG, we are confident in our A/E expertise, but we are not doctors so let’s get that out of the way as our goal is to share information rather than define health truths. With that said, rumors that synthetic turf is dangerous for athletes have been recently muffled by research proving that instead of harming users, artificial field surfaces can actually help control critical variables contributing to lower extremity and head injuries. In a 2013 study conducted by Montana State University Department of Health and Human Development, a year-long evaluation of collegiate athletes, showed that not only do minor, severe, and traumatic injuries occur less frequently on synthetic turf in comparison with natural grass, but also that injuries triggered by field conditions effected by adverse weather were reduced by more than 25%.

The importance of preparing a design game-plan

With so many infill weights and options on the market, making a decision that is both financially responsible and safe for student athletes can be a daunting task.

Using a strategic cost-per-use analysis, designers can help weigh up-front installation costs with the long-term saving potentials between each type of natural and synthetic turf – all without compromising athlete safety.

GMax testing as one of the most influential technologies helping to address concussion and impact injuries in student athletes. Natural grass is unpredictable, but there are a full spectrum of infill types and qualities that can help control the hardness and density of field surfaces. The challenge is finding the right fit for each district and campus depending on their programming, cost, and maintenance needs.That’s where we can provide the right diagnosis and solution.

Join the conversation #ISGSportsandRec #TurfTalk
Andy Brandel

Meet Andy Brandel PE

Since beginning his career at ISG as a summer intern, Andy has built an extensive portfolio providing civil engineering, design, and planning services for a dynamic range of multi-industry clients....

2 responses to “Game-Time Decisions”

  1. Great Article. With nearly 13 years consulting and designing for base and drainage systems for literally thousands of fields, I have come across virtually every type of design, success and failure. One area that is very concerning to us (and hopefully the industry as a whole) is base profile. As the industry commodities, we see other companies come in and insist they can re-invent the wheel, so to speak, by offering better ways to absorb shock, drain and replace costly fill materials. However, this can be a dangerous practice, as some out there are simply concerned with selling their product and not the longevity nor safety of the field.

    We maintain that a safe and stable synthetic field should always be built with a solid foundation, utilizing proven geosynthetic separators, drainage systems and an adequate amount of base material to achieve proper compaction and stable means for the carpet and infill material to do their job as the surface for traction, shock absorption and wear. We continually urge specifiers to not give into the hype, when it comes to lessening profile. As is the case with road construction and heavy civil, there are synthetic materials that can great add to the integrity of any build. But nothing takes the place of correctly-placed and utilized soils/aggregates…proven for centuries.

    New products can be exciting and especially when they tout “cost savings”. But we are reminded every year when replacing synthetic fields under 5 years old, savings today can often be much more costly in the long-run. You get what you pay for and that includes the quality of the initial specification. Thanks for the conversation and keep up the great work.

  2. Great to have you in the conversation Andrew! We couldn’t agree more with your assessment of proper drainage and base design being paramount to synthetic turf athletic field. At ISG, we firmly believe this is true not only for turf fields but all athletic facilities, as it is for our roads, parking lots, and other constructed elements.
    Without proper drainage and base design, and construction, any above ground system is susceptible to failure whether it applies synthetic turf or bituminous pavement. Careful vetting of new products done prior to specification, ensures the right product is selected for a particular application, taking multiple factors into account. It is important to note that product selection is irrelevant if the base fails or a field doesn’t drain effectively.
    Our philosophy contends that designing a turf filed is like designing a parking lot, in that without proper drainage and base, it will fail. Similarly, a parking lot with the wrong asphalt mix for the application will not perform, and this concept holds true for turf systems. Of course, the difference is one holds vehicles, while the other provides performance and safety for users. Thanks for your efforts and expertise in supporting the industry!

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