Turf at SRHS

I was surprised to read the Wanted: Turf Club Members article on page 33 of the December SRCA Newsletter. I could not believe that anybody could be serious about installing artificial turf in the high school stadium, so I contacted SRHS Athletic Director John King to verify his intent. Having listened to his story about the lack of a grounds keeper, overuse of the stadium by too many teams, and the high quality of the product to be installed, I still believe he and the boosters are seriously misguided.

A number of NFL teams have ripped out artificial turf in recent years due to the high incidence of injuries. The NFL Players Association is adamantly opposed to artificial turf for the same reason. Although a number of NFL teams play on artificial turf, not one of them practices on it.

In San Diego there should be no need for artificial turf. We have an ideal climate for healthy grass year-round. Look at Qualcomm Stadium--there is natural grass growing there.

Our children who play football risk life-long debilitating injuries every time they go out on the field. I do not believe we should, by our overt actions, put them more at risk than they already are. As a parent with a young son, I will never allow him to play football for a team playing and practicing on artificial turf. If NFL teams refuse to practice on artificial turf, I question how healthy it is to put a number of other sports on artificial turf--practicing and playing daily.

Sports Illustrated magazine a few years ago devoted a major article to this issue and quoted statistics to back up the claim that artificial turf led to more injuries. I went on the Internet and found a survey from 1999 that reported over 95% of NFL Players Association members say that artificial turf caused more injuries and that the players prefer, by the same margin, to play on natural grass.

If overuse of the stadium for practice is the problem, let's find new practice space for the teams. There is space currently at the Business Park that could be sodded and used for practice. The playing fields in the McMillin StoneBridge Estates might also be developed early if needed for use by the high school. These are only two ideas off the top of my head. Surely the community can come up with even better ones before we spend a million dollars that might lead to permanent sports injuries to our kids.

I believe these issues should have been debated openly before the community was asked to ante up for the project.

Gene Polley

SRHS Response

Download the full response here

This letter is in response to concerns over installing an artificial turf at SRHS. First, we must discuss the product itself. The term artificial turf reminds us of the old AstroTurf. The new surface is best described as a synthetic grass. It looks, feels, and plays like grass.

The difference is that the surface plays the same in wet or dry weather, requires little maintenance, and doesn't suffer the wear and tear of an overused grass field. It is a combination of nearly three inches of synthetic grass, a quarter-inch of silica sand, followed by two inches of sand and rubber granules. Combined, it forms a porous, soft surface.

Is it safe? Yes. This new type of synthetic grass is a very stable, uniform system preferred by athletes all over the world. It does not contribute to leg fatigue, ankle injuries, ACL, and other problems associated with the old turf. Its design allows cleats to penetrate the surface, twist, and release. The fibers have a very low abrasion index, similar to grass.

Rick Eveleth, athletic director for La Jolla High School, which installed FieldTurf in 2000, praises the synthetic surface. Michele McCoy, MA, ATC, head athletic trainer at La Jolla High School, noticed an 80% decrease in ankle injuries, and a 33% decline in knee injuries.

Dr. Bill S. Barnhill, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon and U.S. Ski Team Physician says, "Unlike real grass, this turf provides consistency throughout the year. It will end up being safer than a natural grass field in the long run."

What do the pros think? In January 2003 the NFL Players Association released a ranking of NFL fields. The synthetic FieldTurf's surface at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle was ranked third-best overall, ahead of 20 grass fields. At least 11 teams practice on FieldTurf, and five teams play on it.

Why install synthetic grass in San Diego? Six PE classes, 13 athletic teams, the cheerleaders, and band all share one athletic field. District budget cuts have eliminated our full-time field maintenance staff. Therefore, our athletic field is maintained about once a month.

Some people have suggested practicing at other sites. Coaches and players lose any type of home field advantage when they are forced to practice away from their home school site. In addition, this would occupy and wear out field space coveted by so many other organizations in the community.

By installing synthetic turf, SRHS intends to achieve the following goals:

  • Minimize injuries by providing a flat, even, and consistent surface that provides proper traction;
  • Increase the number of events that can be held on the field;
  • Reduce field "down time"; and,
  • Reduce expenses for maintenance.

We feel that installation of a synthetic field is a safe, competitive, and economically sound decision. Other schools in San Diego agree. Mira Mesa, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Hoover, Pt. Loma, Patrick Henry, Helix, Grossmont, and Westview high schools have all added synthetic grass.

If you have any other questions, please let us know.

SRHS Athletic Department

[Ed. note: The original reply from SRHS had more details, however, it was too long to print. You can find it on the SRCA website at [www.scrippsranch.org]. Go to the bottom of the Dialogue page.]