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Synthetic turf sports fields – the sequel

By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

Synthetic turf, the sequel.
In the previous posts this week we examined the rise of synthetic turf for sporting facilities.  An interesting history that took over 50+ years of research and development to get where we are today. Here we take a look at the final few decades of turfs rise to popularity.

In the late 1970’s, along came Disco and further development in synthetic turf. This second generation features longer tufts spaced more widely apart, more closely mimicking natural grass. Sand was spread between the fibers to create sufficient firmness and stability for the players.

Second generation synthetic turf fields provided a flatter playing surface than natural grass, which gives better ball control and prevents balls from shooting off in unexpected directions.

This was a great improvement, especially for field hockey. But acceptance of synthetic turf for field hockey was slow in coming; it would not widely replace natural grass fro another ten years. But acceptance ultimately did come and today there are few hockey clubs that do not have artificial turf.

The second generation is less suitable, however, for several other sports such as soccer. The playing characteristics and behavior of the ball on these fields is not comparable to natural grass, and sliding tackles can result in painful abrasions from the sand. Nevertheless, some soccer clubs did try out these fields in the 1980’s. But it was not until 1996 that a surface was developed that proved truly suitable for soccer.

A kick in the grass.
After the arrival of the fields spread with sand, scientific and technological advances led to a new type of field. The third, and current, generation of synthetic turf.

A third generation turf is in a class of its own and cannot even be compared with earlier generations. This turf has longer fibers which are spaced further apart in the carpet. They are not usually made of polypropylene but with polyethylene, which is even softer and kinder to the skin. These fields are spread with rubber granules in addition to sand. The combination of fiber and infill ensures a comfortable playing surface; even sliding tackles are no longer a problem. As there is plenty of space between the turf fibers, cleats sink well into the surface, which puts less stress on the players joints and allows the foot to get under the ball. These developments have made the third generation excellent for a number of sports, most notably soccer.

And, as a happy bonus, the new synthetic fields look more like natural grass as well.

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