NFL stars started a petition to ban artificial turf in football after Odell Beckham's Super Bowl injury
- NFL players are petitioning the league to replace all artificial turf with natural grass.
- The players are citing an increased injury rate with playing on turf versus grass.
Odell Beckham Jr.'s non-contact injury in the Super Bowl has sparked a public backlash against artificial field turf in the NFL.
Beckham, 29, appeared to get his foot stuck in the turf at SoFi Stadium — the home stadium of his team, the Los Angeles Rams — while he was running a route in the second quarter. He may have suffered another torn ACL, according to the Los Angeles Rams, which is the same injury that forced Beckham to end his season early in 2020.
After Beckham's injury, several NFL players launched a Change.org petition for the league to ban artificial turf and replace it with natural grass. High-profile players including San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa and tight end George Kittle, took to Twitter, posting the petition with #FlipTheTurf, citing Beckham's injury as the latest example, and sharing their own stories.
"Every player is one play away from altering their career forever when playing on turf. I experienced the bad side of this and it could have been avoided," Bosa wrote.
Players have a higher risk of injury while playing on turf, according to NFL injury data
Injury data collected by the NFL player's union, the NFLPA, from 2012 to 2018 suggested that playing on turf comes with a significantly higher risk of various injuries than natural grass.
According to the NFLPA, their data found that players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf, including a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a 69% higher rate of non-contact foot or ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.
Turf pellets are rubber material and are harder and denser than natural grass and mulch. Turf creates a harder impact on players' legs and joints with each step, and can also trap a player's cleats under harder pressure, making it more often for them to get stuck in turf.
The NFL is split into 16 teams that play on real grass at their home stadium and 16 that play on artificial turf.
Of the 16 teams that play on artificial turf, 13 of them were among the league's top 16 most injured teams in 2021, according to an NFL injury data summary.
Of the 16 teams that play on natural grass, just three were among the league's top 16 most injured teams in 2021. Each of the top three least-injured teams, the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles, all play on natural grass in their home stadium.
Players claim that 90% of them prefer playing on real grass
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, who sprained his MCL in a game against the Dallas Cowboys in October 2020, blamed the turf at AT&T stadium for his injury in a Twitter post during the Super Bowl, and claimed that 90% of NFL players prefer to play on natural grass.
—Nick Chubb (@NickChubb21) February 14, 2022
Chubb's "90%" statistic was cited by tight end George Kittle and defensive end Nick Bosa, and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers stars who were central to an artificial turf controversy in October 2020.
Six of the team's players, including Bosa, Kittle, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, suffered non-contact injuries at MetLife Stadium in a game against the New York Jets. The 49ers players and coaches publicly blamed the quality of the stadium's turf for each injury after the game.
The NFL conducted an official inspection of the field and "certified that the field was in compliance with all applicable NFL policies," according to a press release. However, the 49ers griped that the field's compliance with the NFL policies was not the issue and that the NFL should instead change their policies to ban turf.
The NFL has not responded to Insider's request for comment about the debate over turf at the Super Bowl.
—Arik Armstead (@arikarmstead) September 20, 2020
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