Tracy Walker wears a fresh pair of cleats to every football game he plays, or did at least until the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 game against the Minnesota Vikings earlier this year.
When Walker went out to warm up before the game, he felt his cleats were sticking too much at US Bank Stadium, so he switched to a backup pair in the locker room before kickoff.
Walker helped tackle the Vikings’ first offensive punt, He then tore his Achilles tendon a string later When he planted his left foot and drove to save.
He doesn’t specifically remember hitting the cleat on the turf on that play, but as Walker reflects on his injury in the past two months – And read about the concerns the NFL Players Association has about turf pitches around the league He is convinced that the Minnesota turf surface contributed to his injury.
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“When I tore my Achilles tendon, that was the first thing I thought, like, ‘I switched cleats,’” Walker said. “So it’s like, this — it could have been. That would have been the case, I don’t know. That’s just my belief. I feel like that has a lot to do with it because that day I remember, in particular, I don’t change my cleats and I remember Minnesota because the new cleats were sticking, so I switched cleats. “
NFLPA President JC Tretter, on November 12 on the NFLPA websitecalled on the league to immediately replace the playing surface in the six stadiums that use cut turf and ban its future use on NFL stadiums.
Ford Field and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Superdome in New Orleans, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati also use the surface.
The last time Ford Field was in 2019 It is scheduled to get a new artificial field in 2024 or 2025. MetLife Stadium announced last week that it is reviewing proposals for a new turf field.
Tretter, in his letter, writes that sectional turf has higher rates of non-contact injuries, foot and ankle injuries, and time-wasting injuries to players than single- or double-fiber turf pitches.
The NFL said in a statement, via Pro Football Talkthat concerns about split-film turf are exaggerated.
“While slit-film surfaces, one type of synthetic material, have an additional 2-3 injuries per year, most are ankle sprains—a low-burden injury—while slit-film also sees a lower rate of cruciate ligament injuries.” As a result, the joint experts of the league and the NFLPA did not recommend any changes to surfaces in (our joint surface safety meeting). field) but agreed that further study is needed.
In addition to criticizing the film’s notch turf, Tretter renewed calls for NFL teams to “Proactively change all field surfaces to natural grass” In a separate post, several Lions players said they’d like it to happen too, though most admitted it was a long way off.
“I think grass is the way to go,” said Frank Ragno of the Lions Center. “I don’t know about all the injuries and things like that, because I don’t know the science behind it. But just like in general your joints feel and everything you feel, you’ll feel 10 times better if you play or train on grass than on grass.”
Tretter writes that there is a much higher rate of non-contact injuries on grass versus lawn. ESPN reported that a third-party company that uses the NFL and NFLPA to analyze injury data showed “significantly” higher rates as recently as 2019, but said The numbers were nearly identical in 2021.
Anecdotally, several lions said they had injuries they believed were caused by playing on the grass, or were exacerbated by the surface.
Receiver Josh Reynolds said he developed bursitis in his knee when he was pushed hard in the MetLife zone in a game while playing for the Tennessee Titans last season, and linebacker Jason Cabinda, the Lions’ NFLPA representative, said he tore his PCL in a game. Against the Atlanta Falcons last fall in a similar game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It’s like playing on this (the carpet in the locker room),” said Ragneau. “There’s literally a little bit of carpet on the concrete and it’s hard on the knees, especially when you’re over 300 pounds. It’s a lot — whether you’re just standing there. Like you ask the coaches after standing at a game on the turf all day, they feel it in their lower back, too.” .
Lions coach Dan Campbell said he didn’t notice any problems at Ford Field, though it could relate to his players’ preference to play on grass from his NFL playing days.
“Near the end of my career was when the new stuff came out,” he said. “And look, grass is always different, and it definitely feels better in your joints. Now, anytime you’re on any kind of grass, it puts a little bit more stress on your joints, but as far as a difference, I didn’t really see or feel a difference. But there is a time Other, you have to remember, this was all related to what I knew, and there again, we played on a rug on the grass, and so the new grass was like, “Wow, that’s incredible.”
Playing on grass, Reynolds said, is better than some of the poorly maintained grass fields in the NFL. Soldier Field in Chicago is notorious for its bad turf surface, as is State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona—an indoor stadium with a retractable turf field that can be moved outside.
Cabinda said he doesn’t see the NFL ever going to grass but wants the league to raise its standards on fields across the board.
“For me to sit here and say, ‘Hey, we need to put natural grass inside an indoor playground,’ and take care of it and all that stuff in a meaningful way, it probably wouldn’t be the case,” he said. “But to make sure we have the best land we can ever have, not that cut grass and throw that away and get the best of that, we can[do that].”
This article originally appeared on the Detroit Free Press: Rekindling the NFL’s Surface Controversy: “Grass Is the Better Road, By Far”