Turf said to be safe, soft

May 27, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - In Cumberland, Md., Fort Hill and Allegany high schools share a football field with synthetic turf similar to what North Hagerstown High School is about to get.

Since the field was built about 10 years ago, "I've only seen one, maybe two injuries," said Randy Stewart, an assistant football coach at Allegany. He's not sure the turf was at fault in either case.

For many years, artificial turf was known as hard and unforgiving for athletes and the possible source of many injuries. But Stewart said that's not true now.

Safety was a key element Friday when the Washington County Board of Education voted to put in synthetic turf at North High's new stadium.


Board member Russell F. Williams said he has heard anecdotal evidence that there are few ankle injuries on synthetic turf.

"Football, by it's nature, is a collision sport ..." board member Wayne D. Ridenour said. "The overwhelming majority of injuries don't come as a result of the field."

North High's field would be used for several sports and activities.

Specialty Surfaces Inc., a synthetic turf company in Wayne, Pa., says on its Web site that its all-rubber system eliminates "foot lock," "turf toe" and rug burns.

Specialty Surfaces produces Sprinturf, which the school board agreed to use at the North High stadium.

Company spokeswoman Crystal Parsons said Specialty Surfaces installs fields with 100 percent rubber infill, although a mixture of rubber and sand also is available, to produce a harder surface.

Parsons said artificial turf surfaces used to be a combination of short nylon and polypropylene fibers. Now, blades are longer and made of polyethylene, giving them more of a grassy feel, she said.

Sprinturf needs to be groomed four to six times a year, using a lawnmower or tractor attachment that looks like a giant rake, Parsons said.

Williams said the synthetic surface appears to cut down on the dust that kicks up during games.

At a school board meeting this month, Harry Reynolds of Callas Contractors, which is overseeing the stadium construction, said artificial turf would allow more use at less cost than grass.

Turf would cost a few thousand dollars a year to maintain, Reynolds said at the time.

Chris South, the board's director of budget and finance, revised an earlier estimate of the annual cost to maintain grass fields.

He said an initial estimate of $28,000 incorrectly included salary costs for work that was done by volunteers, so a truer estimate is $21,000 per year.

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