Synthetic Turf: History, Design, Maintenance, and Athlete Safety

James R. Jastifer, Andrew S. McNitt, Christina D. Mack, Richard W. Kent, Kirk A. McCullough, Michael J. Coughlin, Robert B. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Context: Synthetic turf has become an increasingly common playing surface for athletics and has changed dramatically since its introduction more than 50 years ago. Along with changes to surface design, maintenance needs and recommendations have become more standardized and attentive both to upkeep and player-level factors. In particular, synthetic turf maintenance as it relates to athlete health and safety is an important consideration at all levels of play. Evidence Acquisition: A literature search of MEDLINE and PubMed for publications between the years 1990 and 2018 was conducted. Keywords included synthetic turf, artificial turf, field turf, and playing surface. Additionally, expert opinion through systematic interviews and practical implementation were obtained on synthetic turf design and maintenance practices in the National Football League. Study Design: Clinical review. Level of Evidence: Level 5. Results: Synthetic turf has changed considerably since its inception. Playing surface is a critical component of the athletic environment, playing a role both in performance and in athlete safety. There are several important structural considerations of third-generation synthetic turf systems currently used in the United States that rely heavily on strong and consistent maintenance. A common misconception is that synthetic turf is maintenance free; in fact, however, these surfaces require routine maintenance. Whether athletes experience more injuries on synthetic over natural surfaces is also of interest among various levels and types of sport. Conclusion: Modern synthetic turf is far different than when originally introduced. It requires routine maintenance, even at the level of local athletics. It is important for sports medicine personnel to be familiar with playing surface issues as they are often treating athletes at the time of injury and should maintain a level of awareness of contemporary research and practices regarding the relationships between synthetic turf and injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-90
Number of pages7
JournalSports Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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