Artificial turf: The importance of its sports and technical function
The performance of players, the risk of injury and the ability of the pitch to continue to offer maximum performance depend on these parameters.
The latest generation of artificial turf football fields is designed, manufactured and installed for intensive, continuous and regular use. However, artificial turf must also perform two essential functions: a sports function and a technical function. The characteristics of the turf and its response to these requirements determine, among others, its performance and duration.
The sports function includes the properties of the artificial turf surface, which contribute both to reducing the risk of injury as well as to facilitating the excellent performance of the player in relation to the sports performance and spectacle of the game. It is important to differentiate between two aspects, player-artificial grass surface interaction and ball-artificial grass surface interaction:
- The criteria used to assess the player-artificial grass surface interaction include: the reduction of forces, or shock absorption, related to the ability of the surface to reduce the stresses that the player endures when running or jumping; vertical deformation, which concerns changes that the surface undergoes following the actions of the players; rotational and linear traction correlated to the grip of the studs and grass; abrasion of the skin, all aspects crucial to the safety of the player.
- The criteria used to assess the ball-surface interaction are the rolling, the vertical bounce and angular bounce of the ball.
The technical function includes the properties that guarantee that the turf surface will maintain its behaviour during a certain period depending on the environment and the use for which it is intended. It is necessary to distinguish between the technical function of the support layer (or foundation) and that of the artificial turf system itself. The tests carried out on the support layer take into consideration criteria such as the drainage capacity, the flatness and the slope. As for the playing surface, some of the specific tests include: wear simulation (LISPORT method), climatic ageing (UV), residual deformation and changes in the granulated rubber infill, seam strength, etc.
The maintenance of the artificial turf surface with granulated rubber infill is no more difficult than the traditional artificial turf surfaces (with silica sand infill), while it is much simpler than the maintenance of natural grass systems. Nevertheless, adequate, frequent and regular maintenance will guarantee its sports and technical function.