NFL: Grass or Turf?

Although the NFL season is only four weeks old, there have already been some season-ending injuries, but it is no surprise after a season like last year’s.
Artificial turf at Newman Stadium
Artificial turf at Newman Stadium
Ruby Morris

Aaron Rodgers, one of the league’s premier quarterbacks with a bundle of MVP awards and a Super Bowl under his belt, made the switch to the New York Jets after 18 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, in his first game with the Jets four weeks ago, he went down just 75 seconds into his debut with the Jets with a torn Achilles tendon on a turf field, which has resurfaced concerns for turf fields used in the NFL. With Rodgers being 39 years old, many are wondering if that was the last time we will see the quarterback on the field. 

Who or what is to blame? Fans, players, coaches, and league directors instantly blame the field. Many believe that turf fields are the root of all non-contact injuries around the league. The league is split in two, with half of the 32 teams having artificial turf and half having real grass. 

New Jersey’s MetLife stadium, where both the Jets and Giants play their home games, is one of the main offenders. There is a long list of major injuries that have happened there. Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, who tore his ACL in 2022. In 2020, in a matchup between the 49ers and Jets, both Nick Bosa and Soloman Thomas, who were vital parts of the 49ers defense, tore their ACLs. And most recently, Rodgers went down with his Achilles injury.

Former NFL center and president of the NFL Players Association, JC Tretter, said in an article, “Specifically, players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.” 

These are proven facts that are specific to players having non-contact injuries while playing.

The NFL players association has a strong and important impact on what the NFL does and can help promote change. 

“Switching to grass is the easiest decision the NFL can make,” said NFLPA Executive Director Lloyd Howell following Rodgers’ injury. “The players overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf.”

Switching to grass can be challenging for many teams. It is an expensive and time-consuming investment, but one that many NFL players are desperately asking for. With the World Cup coming to North America in 2026, FIFA has issued strong requirements on what type of field the soccer players should play on. They are demanding that all fields have real grass for the tournament. While some stadiums are going to be experimenting with a 60-day temporary grass field, this requirement could sway other stadiums to make the permanent switch to grass.

Grass fields are hard to maintain, but the players and the NFLPA clearly prefer the struggle of maintaining grass to the chance that their star quarterback goes down to a non-contact knee injury.

Another question, though, is if real grass is really worth it. According to Sports Illustrated, it would cost each team roughly 12 million dollars to make the permanent switch to high quality grass. Additionally, the upkeep for these fields would be very hard and expensive for some stadiums, especially if there are many events taking place on the field such as college games or concerts. 

For stadiums that have a dome, it would be quite the challenge to maintain a successful grass field. The Arizona Cardinals have an innovative way of doing it, though. They have a real grass field that rolls 700 feet outside of their domed stadium during the day to take in natural sunlight and rain. This is a concept that would take time to implement elsewhere, but it is a unique way for all domed stadiums to take good care of their natural grass fields. 

However, if a grass field is not well taken care of, it can be just as bad as turf.  The Washington Commanders play at FedEx field in Washington D.C., and it is widely regarded as one of the worst stadiums in the country. The grass is not maintained well and is known to have caused injuries. Before a game in 2013, the groundskeepers in D.C. decided to throw grass on top of the field and then spray paint it green. Within minutes of the game, it was obvious that the field was not up to par, and star quarterback at the time Robert Griffin III suffered a gruesome knee injury. 

In the same game, Seattle Seahawks pass rusher Chris Clemons suffered the same knee injury, tearing his ACL and meniscus. It was said that the field was so dry that it felt like playing on concrete. There have been many more serious injuries at FedEx field since that game in 2013, including Joe Burrow, Adrian Peterson, and Chase Young, who all tore their ACLs. 

Grass fields are hard to maintain, but the players and the NFLPA clearly prefer the struggle of maintaining grass to the chance that their star quarterback goes down to a non-contact knee injury, a situation that seems to happen every few weeks in the NFL.

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About the Contributor
Jacob Clarkson, Staff Writer
Jacob is a junior at NASH. He is part of the Lacrosse Team and enjoys golf, basketball, and hanging out with friends.

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