While the vibrant green color and perfectly straight stripes may be what the spectators notice about your fields, we know that providing a safe space for the athletes is the ultimate priority.
Sports-related brain injuries in children and adolescents jumped by more than 60 percent over an eight-year period. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year, emergency room visits among people 19 years old and under related to traumatic brain injuries sustained in recreational activities increased from 153,375 in 2001 to 248,418 in 2009. The drastic increase could be the result of growing awareness about the need to seek medical treatment for suspected concussions.
Parents and coaches are more educated on concussions than ever before, and are taking steps to prevent head injuries and improve their response when they do occur. The city of Boston, for example, recently passed an ordinance stating that before an independent athletic group is permitted to use a city-owned field, all coaches, players, referees, trainers and volunteers must be trained in concussion safety.
And, safety concerns are not limited to youth sports. Recently, DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said that the union has asked the league to require a concussion expert on the sidelines of every game. (This year the NFL provided a $30 million grant to National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to fund research on brain injuries and other sports-related health issues.)
With the rise in popularity of artificial surfaces has come increased scrutiny on the safety of synthetic systems. As many of you know, the hardness and shock absorption properties of a turf field are gauged by G-max, a measurement of acceleration that relates to the maximum force of a collision. A G-max level over 200 is considered unacceptable for play; most fields (at the time of installation) have levels between 100 and 140, perfectly safe for play. The problem? Over time, many factors can affect the shock absorption properties of a field and the subtle changes can be difficult to detect without G-max impact testing.
Although experts suggest annual G-max testing, a study in Texas found that of 34 school districts with artificial turf fields, only three had followed annual testing schedules. Even more frightening, the majority had never tested at all. As field managers, it’s imperative that you serve as ambassadors for player safety by educating others at your stadium, in your school district or in your municipality about the importance of regular G-max testing.
There are a number of resources for information on concussion safety and prevention. Visit the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to providing concussion education, at www.sportslegacy.org. The CDC also offers a wealth of information at www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports.