By Ken Reed

The NFL salary cap is $224.8 million per team in 2023. That’s a pretty big investment for owners. Yet, for some reason, half of the NFL’s owners continue to use artificial turf fields that have proven to be more dangerous for players than natural grass fields.

Aaron Rodgers’ recent season-ending achilles injury has brought renewed attention to the playing surfaces in the NFL. Of course, Rodgers may have suffered the same injury on a natural grass field as well. We’ll never know. What we do know from research is that more injuries occur on artificial turf fields relative to natural grass fields.

According to NFLPA President JC Tretter, “Artificial turf is significantly harder on the body than grass.”

Tretter referenced an independent study that found players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on artificial turf. More specifically, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a shocking 69% higher rate of non-contact foot or ankle injuries on turf.

Playing in a domed stadium is no longer an excuse for not switching to natural grass these days. Both the Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders have retractable field systems that allow natural gas fields to move in and out. Real Madrid has a fully retractable field that’s stored in a greenhouse beneath the stadium.

NFL stadiums have switched from artificial turf to natural grass in order to host World Cup games or big soccer exhibitions, but then they switch back to artificial turf for their own players. Yes, owners can save money on maintenance costs with artificial turf fields but those savings pale in comparison to the cost of losing a $25 million-a-year player for the season.

This should be an easy — and smart — decision for NFL owners. “It’s a no brainer,” says agent Drew Rosenhaus.

“If the owners care about their players and want to win, then they will make the switch! I encourage the leaders at the NFL to push for this change. It’s for the good of the players and the game itself.”

No brainer indeed.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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