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Turfgrass Management, Athletic-Field Conditions, and Injuries in High School Football

The wide range of turfgrass conditions existing on high school athletic fields in Pennsylvania may reflect: i) procedures used during construction, ii) past and current maintenance practices, iii) intensity of use, or iv) a combination of these factors. The condition of a playing field is not only of aesthetic importance, but it also may affect play and player safety.

The prevention of athletic injuries, particularly in a violent contact sport such as football, is of major concern to most educational institutions. At the college level, comparison of natural turf and artificial surfaces in regard to football injuries has received attention in recent years, but differences in quality of the turf on grassed fields has been a topic that has received only minor attention.

Wilcox, Fox, and Beyer (1965) reported a pronounced reduction in practice-field injuries at one high school when practice sessions were moved from a dry and heavily compacted area to a field where the turf had been adequately maintained. Of course, the reduction in injuries may have been influenced by factors not under consideration. Also, conclusions based on data from a single high school may not be valid for other schools. Sanderson (1979) stated that soil compaction of athletic fields is a leading cause of football players’ knew injuries. He advocated a full maintenance program of aerification, overseeding¹, fertilization, and weed control to provide a playing surface that would tend to reduce the incidence and severity of injuries.

Well-controlled studies of the effects of turf management practices on the incidence of injuries in football are needed. The purposes of this study were: i) to evaluate conditions of high school game and practice fields and determine the relation of field conditions to maintenance programs; ii) to determine if a relationship existed between field conditions and the incidence of field-related injuries in high school football, and iii) to provide professional advice concerning turf management programs in an effort to improve the quality of high school football fields.