Arizona Football: Pros and Cons to Installing Artificial Turf at Arizona Stadium

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 17: The Arizona Wildcats warm up on the field as the sun sets before the college football game against the Stanford Cardinal at Arizona Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Athletic director Greg Byrne's vision for Arizona football includes a renovated Arizona Stadium. Artificial turf is among the suggested changes, a break from tradition. Arizona Stadium has had a grass surface for as long as it has stood -- aside, of course, from stretches in the Border Conference days when it was a dirt field only called grass.

The instillation of artificial turf might seem a minor detail in comparison to the massive video board added to the southside this past season, and the project that will completely change the look of the northside.

From an actualy play standpoint though, the proposed surface switch for 2013 will have the biggest impact. Field turf is becoming the most common playing surface around the country because it facilitates faster play. UA would benefit with Rich Rodriguez introducing a more rush oriented offense.

Then again, if it's turf and outstanding rushing UA football seeks, why not dial up LaDainian Tomlinson?

OK, so maybe Easy Turf is not the solution. Per Ryan Finley's above referenced article though, FieldTurf Duraspine PRO seems to be.

There are questions to address more substantive than departing from the traditional use of Bermuda grass, or Rodriguez's familiarity with artifical turf. Player safety is a chief concern worth discussing as stadium renovations move forward.

The artificial surfaces reverberate more heat, certainly an issue with triple digit temperatures lasting into September in Tucson. A Penn State study referenced here said:

Collected data indicated that the air temperature as measured at a distance of two feet above the synthetic turf surface ranged from one to five degrees greater than the observed ambient air temperature, while the temperature at the same height above the natural turf ranged from 3° F lower to 1° F greater than the ambient air temperature.

Artificial turf has ecological benefits, namely the production of its crumb rubber base from recycled tires. The end product does elicit concerns about safety, though. A California government study used college soccer to evaluate how much more common abrasions were on artificial turf, compared to grass. Findings showed more than twice as many abrasions sustained on turf than grass. Read the complete report here.

Most startling is a recent American Journal of Sports Medicine study that found 40 percent more ACL injuries on artificial turf. ACL tears have been a vexing issue of Wildcat football in the past year: running back Greg Nwoko missed 2011 with such an injury, and Adam Hall has gone down to ACL tears twice.

Lead author of the study, Jason Dragoo, pointed out the research was not a definitive conclusion on which surface was safer, saying:

"This doesn't say there's conclusive evidence that turf increases the injury rate, but maybe we can say it's not as safe as we thought it was," he told Reuters Health.

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