How to Make Artificial Turf Safer to Play With Soccer Protective Gear
Oct 25, 2023
Back in 2014, Alex Morgan made a candid statement about playing on artificial turf:
"Not only are they long lasting injuries, but there are long-term effects of playing on turf. The achiness, taking longer to recover than on natural grass, the tendons and ligaments are, for me at least, I feel more sore after turf. It takes longer to recover from a turf field than natural grass."
Even Zlatan Ibramovich himself said in 2018, “by playing on turf, I risk to get damage,” recognizing the potential injury risks associated with playing on turf. And that brings us to our topic—artificial turf safety.
It has been the subject of scrutiny and concerns for a few reasons. For starters, the sharpness of turf blades can cause deep skin abrasions, which pose an infection risk. And there’s an established correlation to higher rates of leg injuries on turf compared to natural grass surfaces.
If you play on turf, it’s smart to invest in soccer protective gear and conditioning that can keep injuries at bay.
Here’s a look at our recommendations.
First Line of Defense: Anti-Turf Burn Gear
Turf burn is nasty. It not only looks gross—it’s raw, red, and raspberry-like in texture and color—but it’s also painful. We’re talking a burning, searing pain that’ll make you want to hop around on one leg for relief. And if the cut is deep enough and untreated, it can get infected.
You get turf burn from the friction of sliding on the surface, usually when tackling or trying to save the ball. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s something to think about.
The best way to prevent turf burn is to wear anti-turf gear. They contain stretchy, friction-resistant panels that protect your skin from abrasions. Here at Storelli, we carry anti-turf burn wear for the whole body. They’re fitted with SABR-Tex™, a friction-resistant material made with fortified nylon panels, that can withstand slides on artificial turf.
Upper Body Anti-Turf Burn Gear
- BodyShield Goalkeeper Light Matchday 3/4 Undershirt - A men’s goalkeeper undershirt that features anti-abrasion paneling.
- Women's BodyShield Goalkeeper 3/4 Undershirt - A women’s goalkeeper undershirt that also features anti-abrasion paneling.
- BodyShield Arm Guards - Arm sleeves for both men and women players, which protects the elbows and surround areas from turf burn.
Lower Body Anti-Turf Burn Gear
- Bodyshield Turf Burn Leggings - Men’s goalkeeper leggings that contain friction-resistant material, offering protection against turf blades.
- Bodyshield Turf Burn Sliders - Men’s sliding shorts that also contain friction-resistant material to protect against turf burns.
- Women’s Turf Burn Leggings - Women’s goalkeeper leggings lined with friction-resistant material that also protects against turf burns.
- BodyShield Knee Guards - Knee protection that contains materials which protect against turf burns caused by sliding.
Wearing this kind of gear is the easiest and most-effective way to protect your skin from turf burn injuries. We put a guide together that takes a deeper look at these items and how to choose them.
Artificial turf may also wreak havoc by causing leg injuries. It’s not 100% established yet, but there’s enough research to show a correlation between turf and higher injury risks.
A group of researchers reviewed 53 articles published between 1972 and 2020, which examined a link between sports played on turf and injury rates. Soccer was included in this list. The researchers found a higher occurrence of foot and ankle injuries on artificial turf, compared to grass fields.
And then there’s research conducted by Dr. Joseph Donnelly, a Bay-area orthopedic surgeon who has treated many ACL injuries. His investigative work not only supports the previous study, but offers a possible biomechanical explanation to why turf is a problem.
He found one study which demonstrated how blade-shape cleats on artificial turf was a huge risk factor, because the cleats increased the twisting force (torsion) of the knee.
Keep in mind that turf has increased stickiness compared to grass. Combine a stickier surface that makes it easier for cleats to get stuck in, plus cleats that twist the knees more easily and bam—you have a perfect storm for ACL tears.
Most players don’t get to choose what surfaces they play on, but they can choose to wear soccer protective gear. The best fix is grip/traction gear that stabilizes the feet and knees to prevent excessive sliding and torsion.
- SpeedGrip® Socks 3 Black - Grip socks that provide traction to pressure zones of the feet that need it most, providing more control to the player as they move.
Now it’s not easy to convince players to change their cleats, but it’s worth thinking about for those using artificial turf. Cleats with slightly longer and hollow studs and a varied stud pattern are ideal. The hollow design prevents the cleats from sticking into the turf, which is partly why players get ACL injuries on these surfaces.
Soccer Conditioning for Artificial Turf
Now we want to highlight this point too—soccer conditioning drills are essential to reduce the risk of ACL injuries. Grip socks and cleats alone won’t do it. This is especially important for female players, because their anatomy, namely, their Q-angles, puts them at a higher risk for ACL injuries.
With that said, players should focus on a combination of drills that improve strength, muscle firing patterns, balance and muscle architecture.
Conditioning Drills for Players on Turf
- FIFA 11+ neuromuscular drills — A series of warmup exercises created by FIFA that can combine running, active stretching, and strength training. They improve neural efficiency and muscle firing, which improves running mechanics and reduces ACL injury.
- Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) program — A series of warmup drills designed specifically to lower ACL injury risk, through a combination of plyometrics, balance training, and strength exercises.
These drills are backed by research, and should be a staple for all soccer players, including those who play on grass. The other upside to their injury-prevention benefits is that they can also increase your overall athletic ability. So practicing them is a win-win.
Protect Yourself on Turf, While it Lasts
Now that the USWNT have settled their gender discrimination lawsuit, we’re slowly entering an era of turf-less soccer. And that’s a big deal, especially for women’s soccer. As more research emerges, it’s safe to assume that other women’s leagues, both professional and amateur, will follow suit.
But the key word is slowly. It won't be an overnight change and that means artificial turf will be around for a while. Players confined to it should wear soccer protective gear and practice conditioning drills to lower their injury risks. They’re not perfect solutions, but they can make artificial safe markedly safer to play on.
Looking to protect yourself from injury on artificial turf? Browse our selection of anti-turf burn gear and grip wear!