Technology makes it possible

Natural grass fields crucial
to reduce injuries

Research shows that the risk of injuries on a high-quality grass fields is many times lower than on artificial turf.

SGL grow lighting system at BMO Field, home of Toronto FC

Recent research has demonstrated that the number injuries on artificial turf athletic fields are significantly higher when compared to natural grass surfaces. Despite this information, only half of all NFL venues use natural grass surfaces. Improvements in turfgrass varieties, maintenance practices, and technology allow for high quality and safe natural grass playing surfaces to be grown in these unique stadium environments. Grow lighting is a technology that has been proven across the globe in maintaining state of the art athletic fields. Grow lights extend the growing season and increase the rate of recovery by supplementing light and heat to the surface. Embracing these technologies and natural grass puts a priority on player safety.

NFLPA president and Cleveland Browns center JC Trettor recently sent a clear message: “NFL clubs should proactively change all field surfaces to natural grass.” Not only has he and many other players experienced that natural grass is better for the body, the science backs that up. Based on NFL injury data collected from 2012 – 2018, the contact injury rate for lower extremities and the non-contact lower extremity injuries rate was significantly higher on artificial turf than on natural grass surfaces. In many sports worldwide, SGL grow lighting technology is used to grow a high quality grass field; Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and BMO field amongst them.

Dr. John Sorochan, Distinguished Professor Turfgrass Science at the University of Tennessee, has done extensive research testing natural grass sports playing surfaces; including, investigating grow light technology as one of the solutions for reduced light (i.e. stadiums) environments. Dr. Sorochan says: “In essence, grass needs light, temperature, CO2, water, and nutrition to grow. In almost every major stadium, the lack of light energy is often the reason grass cannot grow sufficiently to recover from wear during sporting events. Additionally, the time of year and/or stadium design are what contribute to low light conditions.”

Light energy is required for photosynthesis to occur, and limited photosynthesis results in inadequate growth and weak plants. This means that the grass damages easily, recovers poorly and the density is low. Dr. Sorochan says: “We have done extensive research with grow lights and found that they add the right amount of light energy, and if needed temperature, to achieve the same level of photosynthesis and quality of grass growth similar to natural sunlight. We are confident that grow lights can help provide a high quality natural grass surface, and a healthy uniform grass surface results in a safer playing surface.”

As a market leader in grow light technology for sports facilities worldwide, we have already proven that the technology works, in North America at Lambeau Field, M&T Bank Stadium and BMO Field amongst others. SGL founder Nico van Vuuren: “Our technology is specifically designed for sports to optimise the grass growing climate. Every stadium is different and needs its own approach. Therefore research and data is essential. For every stadium we do a shade and climate analysis, and together with other important aspects such as sport and playing schedule, our growth algorithm calculates the exact amount of additional light and temperature that is needed to achieve the desired grass quality. We have over 350 customers across 6 continents, from open stadiums in hot climates to closed stadiums in cold climates. They have all improved the quality of their playing surface to reduce the risk of injuries, improve the quality of play and increase the number of events to drive revenue. They have all proven that natural grass is possible everywhere.”

The science is evident, the technology is there. Time to prioritize player safety and embrace the technology that offers a change for the better. To quote NFLPA president JC Trettor again: “This data is clear, so everyone involved with our sport should be similarly motivated to make this switch. For players, we can be stronger advocates for ourselves by continuing to demand safer standards. For coaches and general managers, building a successful team is much easier with a healthy roster. For NFL owners, any decision shown to protect their most important investments – the players – should be a no-brainer.”