Whether or not artificial turf is a more dangerous surface to play football on than natural grass has long been discussed in the football world. A thesis from Linköping University shows that players playing on artificial turf have more overstrain injuries than those playing on natural grass.
The risk of injury for a professional footballer is 1,000 times higher than the risk of an industrial worker being injured at work. This means that playing football can be seen as a high-risk job. In her thesis, Karolina Kristenson investigated the factors that make playing football such an injury-ridden profession. She studied the injuries among male footballers who play for teams in the All-Swedish league and its Norwegian equivalent – Tippeligan – as well as in the UEFA Champions League. She compares things such as how time as a professional football player, playing surface and change of surface contribute to different types of injury.
One thing she notes in the thesis is that teams playing on artificial surfaces have a higher general risk of injury. The injuries that are over represented among teams that play on artificial turf are primarily overstrain injuries, especially in the lower leg, groin and hip areas.
“If we just take acute injuries with a sudden onset that we can say with certainty occurred on a certain surface, we don’t find any difference in the number of injuries. But the result is different over the long term if we include overstrain injuries,” says Ms Kristenson, doctoral student in sports medicine.
In her thesis, the former footballer also takes the opportunity to dispel some myths in the football world.
“It is ‘known’ in the football world that when you change surface you suffer more injuries. But I can detect no connection in my research between risk of injury and how often you change surface,” Ms Kristenson says.
We usually say that players who have natural turf on their home grounds get injured more often when they play on artificial turf. Karolina Kristenson dispels this myth too. Her study shows that exactly the opposite is true–these players get injured less often.
Top picture: iStock photo
Bottom picture: Linköping University
Risk factors for injury in men’s professional football, Linköping University Medical Dissertations No 1445. Karolina Kristenson.