Sunday, August 07, 2005

Introducing artificial surfaces is a mistake

Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse suffered a terrible broken leg last year which saw him spend almost a season in recovery. Liverpool made a huge investment and within games of his arrival the player’s career was in very serious jeopardy.

FIFA allowing the use of artificial surfaces will increase player injuries like Cisse’s. In press statements, FIFA says that the new surfaces are much improved. They are, but will still cause more injuries. Small injuries and like Cisse, broken limbs.

The USA has used artificial surfaces for decades in the National Football League and in Major League Baseball. Indoor stadiums are common in America and enormous linemen were often subjected to the limits of physics and astro-turf’s fatal flaw.

Unfortunately for Cisse in that game against Blackburn Rovers, the pitch did not give enough and would have given even less on a fake pitch. Would Liverpool have lost him for good if the pitch was artificial?

My logic against artificial surfaces is based on a single irrefutable difference between artificial surfaces and the real thing:

The divot.

Artificial surfaces can’t tear away like a pitch does. A fatal flaw.

Whenever you see a big chunk of ground break away that big brown streak or hole exposed is occasionally a career saver my friends.

Take all the PR jargon from companies aligned with FIFA and selling the ‘new’ storyline on astro-turf, but there will be more injuries with its use. Physics is at work.

Imagine the force of a player’s leg jamming into the ground at full speed in the middle of a tackle where a leg is pinned down to the point where there are three forces at work:

-Force from the defender’s leg
-Force applied to the attacker’s leg
-Resistance of the pitch

If you increase the resistance of the pitch (with astro-turf) you increase the pressure on the player’s limbs. That increases the likelihood of an injury. On natural grass you have the divot, which protects from injury.

A frozen pitch is also problematic, but frozen astro-turf is also less pliable. Most everything is when it’s cold. If it was Liverpool vs. Blackburn on a frozen night with natural turf, his injury would probably have been worse.

Grass and cold weather don’t mix. Football and bad pitches don’t either.

A more effective solution would be to install heated pipes of water under the pitch to keep the ground at a constant temperature. Invest in research to improve grass strains for cold weather.

But we too often live in a shortcutting world.
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