Among the most prominent and often overlooked factors impacting athletic injuries at any level of play is the condition of the playing field. Many of these injuries are avoidable.
Athletic fields vary greatly depending on the sport, climate and funds available for upkeep. Most community sports teams cannot afford full time grounds-keeping staff. Parents shouldn’t hesitate to get involved by following some helpful hints:
• Get to the game early and walk on the field. Often coaches and officials are preoccupied with game preparation and don’t have time to inspect the grounds. Remove any debris, check for holes and be sure goal posts are securely padded.
• Baseball diamonds should be evenly mowed with no impediments that can cause a “bad hop” on the infield. Outfield fences should be inspected for sharp protrusions sticking out in the event a player runs into it.
• Indoor courts should be examined for moist areas that will affect traction.
• Seating must be a safe distance back from the players to avoid collisions between players and fans when chasing a loose ball.
“The amount of moisture on a field is crucial to avoid slipping. If a field is too moist or too dry, athletes will not be able to maintain firm footing and may potentially be injured,” said Ryan Lefler, Assistant Director of Stadium Operations and Turf Management at Dodd Stadium. Uniform moisture and smooth transitions from turf to dirt are essential in preparing a baseball field.
Despite 40 years of experience, the jury is still undecided regarding the safety of artificial turf when compared to grass. Technologic improvements in artificial turf make them more comparable each year.
When it comes to field safety, a vigilant coach, parent or fan may be the key to avoiding serious injury.