The NFL plays a brutal game. Contact-based injuries are bad, but non-contact injuries are arguably even more unfortunate. A push for grass might be needed.
NFL cornerback J.C. Jackson was down on the ground for several minutes after contesting a Seattle Seahawks Marquise Goodwin touchdown in the Los Angeles Chargers matchup against Seattle in Week 7. Though the extent of his injury is unknown just yet, he left on a cart with an air cast around his leg. It doesn’t look good.
The NFL presents plenty of risk for its players. Primarily, things like concussions, neck injuries, and contact-based injuries take the stage when the NFL considers how it can improve the health and safety of its players. Turf seldom enters that conversation.
Perhaps, though, it’s time to open up a serious dialogue about the risks that synthetic grass, or turf, presents for the NFL and its players.
We don’t know exactly what led to J.C. Jackson’s injury on Sunday and how much turf contributed, but it’s opening up some anti-turf dialogue:
Jackson, before this season (his first with the Chargers) played most of his games at Gillette Stadium as a Patriot. That field is natural grass.
Turf has been proven to be rough on the body and bad for NFL players
Turf is inferior to natural grass for plenty of reasons. Firstly, some of the plastic pellets used on turf pose serious health risks and have been thought to be carcinogenic. Though rare, the pellets are small enough that they could be accidentally ingested when a player is tackled to the ground violently.
Secondly and more immediately harmful, grass has more natural give than turf and therefore, lends itself as a safer option from an injury standpoint. When players land, grass gives more of a cushion. That feels better in the moment, but also leads to less cumulative wear and tear on joints and ligaments.
There’s also a growing dialogue about how turf can cause concussions. If anything will get the NFL’s attention on the turf debate, it’s likely to be this given the league’s prioritization of concussion safety over the last handful of years over non-contact injuries. There haven’t been enough studies to really definitively prove the impact of turf versus grass, but one recent study found turf to be far more likely to produce concussions.
Obviously, you hate to see the J.C. Jackson injury and wonder if natural grass may have prevented it. It’s difficult — or impossible, barring some sort of ingenious invention or innovation — in some stadiums to grow natural grass. But newer stadiums, like SoFi, have little excuse to not try and find a way to do it, considering places like State Farm Stadium in Arizona and Allegiant Stadium, both indoors, have found a way to do it with sliding grass fields that move from outside to inside.
Turf stinks. You’re not a real NFL fan if you prefer it over grass!