In this video on ESPNW, Sport Science correspondent John Brenkus explains several ways that artificial turf profoundly alters the game of soccer.
Balls bounce higher. That affects the speed of bouncing balls, which affects players’ timing, which affects the accuracy of shots. “If a strike from the 18-yard-box is mis-timed by 1/100 of a second,” Brenkus says, “it could cause the shot to fly off target in either direction by more than 11 feet.”
Then there’s the injury factor. Overall, studies are inconclusive as to whether injuries are more or less likely on turf. But there is much less ambiguity when the studies focus on certain types of injuries, notably ACL injuries.
One study, he says, showed that plastic turf increase stress on the ACL by up to 45 percent.
In a study that examined injuries in 2,600 NFL games, ACL sprains were 67 percent more likely to occur on artificial turf than on natural grass.
But Brenkus’ most startling revelation has to do with heat.
One wouldn’t think heat would be a problem Up North. Not with highs in June seldom topping the mid-70s in the six Canadian cities that are hosting the 2015 World Cup.
However, according to Brenkus, “surface temperatures of artificial turf on sunny days generally exceed those of natural grass by 35 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That could turn a palatable 75-degree day into a 110-degree scorcher.”
Just once, Sepp Blatter should be made to run around under such conditions for 90 minutes.
Or even 90 seconds.