Football, America's most cherished sport, has been the pinnacle of athletic excellence for decades, showcasing thrilling touchdowns and monumental tackles. Yet, beneath the feet of these players is a pressing issue that might seem inconspicuous but has significant implications: the choice between natural grass and synthetic turf.
At Bethel Farms, celebrated for our top-notch BIMINI® Bermuda grass and diverse sod types, we passionately advocate for the benefits of natural grass. Here's an in-depth dive into why the NFL should seriously consider this transition for the holistic well-being of its athletes.
The Resounding Voice of NFLPA: The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), representing the interests of professional football players, can't be ignored. Their mandate has always been the safety and welfare of players. In recent years, they've sifted through many studies, each pointing toward a singular conclusion: natural grass substantially reduces the risk of injuries compared to its synthetic counterpart—unanimous opinions from a body as influential as the NFLPA is a call for change.
Grass - The Cooler Alternative: An often-overlooked benefit of natural grass, particularly in sports, is its ability to regulate temperature. According to Turf Producers International, natural grass moderates the surrounding heat and remains cooler than hardscapes and other surfaces by a staggering 55 degrees. This ensures a safer environment, mitigating the risks of heat-induced ailments like heat strokes and providing a more comfortable playing experience for athletes. With rising global temperatures and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the choice of playing surface can be the difference between a game played in comfort and one under potentially hazardous conditions.
Concrete Evidence from Academic Studies: A recent American Journal of Sports Medicine study reveals more concerns about synthetic turf. It found that NCAA Division II and III football players were 63% more likely to incur anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries on artificial turf. Furthermore, NCAA Division I football players faced almost three times the risk of posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries when playing on synthetic fields instead of natural grass. This, coupled with the temperature moderation capabilities of natural grass, solidifies its superiority as the playing surface of choice.
Oklahoma State University's Recent Findings: Notably, a recent study conducted by Oklahoma State University provides empirical evidence underscoring the superiority of certain natural grass varieties. BIMINI® Bermuda grass, a pride of Bethel Farms, was ranked number one in traffic tolerance and tensile strength in the university's evaluation of fall traffic tolerance and surface playability of selected Bermuda grasses. This clearly delineates BIMINI®’s resilience, making it an excellent candidate for high-intensity sports like football. These results bolster our conviction in championing the cause of natural grass for sports arenas, especially the NFL. The study accentuates the need to move away from synthetic options, whose risks far outweigh their perceived benefits. When nature offers solutions like BIMINI® Bermuda, which demonstrates exceptional performance even under stress, it becomes a compelling argument for the NFL to ponder.
Player Testimonies: Field anecdotes often offer insights that cold statistics might overlook. David Bakhtiari, after the heartbreaking injury of Aaron Rodgers in 2023, didn't mince words, placing the blame squarely on synthetic turf. This sentiment isn't isolated. Many star players, from Odell Beckham Jr. to Sterling Shepard, have had their careers shadowed by injuries, many attributing their woes to artificial fields. Their voices echo a shared sentiment: a return to nature, a return to grass.
A Moment of Reflection: The recent tragic incident involving Aaron Rodgers, one of the league's most prominent figures, has brought the turf debate back into the limelight. In his much-anticipated debut with the New York Jets, Rodgers suffered a season-ending injury at MetLife Stadium, a venue that had just transitioned to a new synthetic playing surface called FieldTurf. Such a catastrophic event involving an iconic player underscores the urgency of this debate. It's a poignant reminder that the choice between natural grass and synthetic turf isn't just a matter of aesthetics or maintenance—it directly impacts the health and careers of the athletes we cherish.
Celebrities Rally for Grass: The advocacy for natural grass isn't confined to anecdotal expressions of concern. Businesses and sports figures are collaborating to raise awareness, like the informational video featuring Von Miller and Pennington highlighting the dangers of artificial surfaces. Although it was barred from airing during the 2023 NFL Draft, the essence of their message remains the need for a paradigm shift in how we view playing surfaces.
A Glimpse at Current NFL Statistics: The current scenario in the NFL is balanced precariously. Of the thirty teams, fifteen have chosen natural grass for their stadiums, while the remaining opt for synthetic turf. However, this balance is tilted when considering that seventeen NFL teams end up playing their home games on artificial grounds due to shared venues. Such a significant lean towards synthetic turf is not just an operational choice but a tacit endorsement of its utility.
Bethel Farms: Our Grassroots Movement: We have meticulously nurtured BIMINI® Bermuda grass and a diverse range of sod varieties. We believe natural grass is not merely a playing surface but a living, breathing entity that offers myriad benefits. Beyond safety, grass plays a pivotal role in environmental sustainability, significantly reducing ambient heat and acting as a carbon sink.
The Broader Environmental Picture: Beyond player safety, this debate has an environmental angle. Synthetic fields, over their lifespan, contribute to environmental degradation. They add to the global carbon footprint from their production, laden with chemicals, to their disposal. Natural grass, conversely, aids in carbon sequestration, water purification, and temperature regulation.
Drawing upon these compelling arguments and backed by both research and lived experiences of players, the NFL's path seems unequivocally clear. To ensure player safety, uphold the environmental mantle, and genuinely respect the spirit of the game, the shift should be toward alternatives like BIMINI® Bermuda grass and other natural sod varieties. As stewards of this beloved sport, it's incumbent upon the NFL to make choices that resonate not just today but for generations to come. After all, sometimes, the best way forward is to trace our steps back to the grassroots.