As if routine injuries and COVID-19 aren’t hard enough on the NFL, artificial turf has taken its toll on players, too. With the New York Giants and New York Jets both utilizing MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey as their home field, many visiting teams are calling out the stadium for its artificial turf causing more injuries than usual.
It started with Game 2 this season when the San Francisco 49ers faced the Jets. Several 49ers players got injured and others in subsequent games. There won’t be any changes though, at least through the remaining games scheduled there. But will there be a change to any of the 15 stadiums that currently have artificial turf?
The 49ers’ injuries from the game against the Jets
Although the Niners won Game 2 with a 31-13 win against the Jets, several players suffered leg injuries. The team’s star defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas each suffered an ACL tear, putting both out for the season. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered an ankle sprain, running back Tevin Coleman had a knee sprain, and running back Raheem Mostert came up with an MCL sprain.
Some members of the team blamed the new turf at MetLife Stadium, according to CBS Sports. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead tweeted, “@nfl fix this trash MetLife turf. 2020 is so wack.” He also told reporters, “Guys seemed to be getting stuck in the ground more than regularly,” according to Sporting News. “A bunch of our players went down. It wasn’t real fun to be a part of and see happen to your teammates.”
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan agreed, noting this was “as many knee injuries and ankle stuff and people getting caught on the turf that I’ve ever been a part of.”
The 49ers played again at MetLife the next week for Game 3, this time against the Giants. It brought more injuries. For tight end Jordan Reed, it was a sprain to his MCL, and linebacker Mark Nzeocha suffered a quad injury.
Stadiums with artificial turf
Fifteen NFL fields have artificial turf this season, according to the Associated Press. MetLife received a new artificial turf surface during this past offseason.
Giants’ coach Joe Judge, along with NFL officials, claimed there was nothing wrong with the turf before the Giants-49ers game, according to the New York Daily News. The NFL had an independent field inspector inspect the field on Sept. 12, prior to Game 1. According to the inspector, the field followed all applicable NFL policies.
“We had camp in the stadium. That was kind of our home for that month or so. We had our players on the turf every day for some kind of walkthrough, competitive practice and then leading up to the game last week,” Judge said prior to the game. “Not a single player said anything negative along the way to me at all about any of the facilities, but specifically the turf. I’ve been on it myself with the team. I think it’s a good surface.”
The turf installed in June is FieldTurf Classic HD. The Giants have the same turf inside its indoor practice field. The turf is not uncommon and the company states it is safer than other turfs on the market. Other stadiums with FieldTurf Classic HD include those of the Patriots, Lions, Seahawks, and Falcons.
NFL Players Association calls for conversions of all stadiums
Late in September, NFL Players Association President and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter called for all NFL stadiums to convert to natural grass. Citing it as safer than turf according to statistics, NJ reports the association website states, “players have a 28% higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries when playing on artificial turf. Of those non-contact injuries, players have a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries on turf and a staggering 69% higher rate of non-contact foot/ankle injuries on turf compared to grass.”
“”Those numbers are staggering, the difference in injury rate between turf and natural grass,” Tretter told the media. “It’s possible to get grass in every location, and it’s about pushing for that. We all should be working toward the safest style of play.”
The 49ers are in the basement of the NFC West with a 4-6 record, as of Nov. 19. Not having one win yet this season, the Jets are in the basement of the AFC East. The Giants are faring a bit better with a 3-7 record, placing them currently second in the NFC East.
There are six games left for MetLife Stadium this year. For those players who haven’t suffered any major injuries yet this year, there’s still time. The Jets and Giants each have three home games scheduled there.