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Turf: the good, the bad, the ugly



Playing sports in high school, you start to look forward to any opportunities to leave the swampy grass for the fresh turf field. Since Pinegrove fields are uneven, rocky and often have large spots of grass missing, the turf is always a better option. However, playing on turf does not always end well for a variety of reasons.

The good: traction. Turf provides excellent traction as it increases the coefficient of friction between the ground and cleats, enabling for sharp movements. On grass, the force of pushing off of a foot could cause the soggy grass to move, but turf remains firm, even in the most adverse conditions. Also, grass contains numerous rocky/hard spots, where the force of a step is unable to penetrate the surface of the earth, causing a lack of traction. Without friction between the human and the ground, there is no force propelling the human forward, prohibiting movement. 

The bad: heat. While this may be a mixture of physics, chemistry and biology (I don't really know), the surface of turf heats up to extreme temperatures in the heat. One reason for this is that the tiny rubber pellets absorb more energy than they release during the day (when it's sunny), but also the fact that artificial grass cannot evaporate like normal grass. Evaporation causes cooling as it is an endothermic process, making its surroundings appear cooler. The heat may feel good if you lay down on the turf in April/May, but when I went to Maryland for some lacrosse tournaments in July, people's cleats were literally melting.

The ugly: turf burn. Friction is always switching between good and bad, but necessary for life. We want less friction when we kick a soccer ball to make it roll further, but at the same time it wouldn't roll without some friction. While the friction on turf is a blessing for running, it becomes problematic when you end up on the ground in a game. Although I am personally unaware of the exact number, I can attest to the fact that the coefficient of friction between the turf and one's skin is extremely high. The high frictional force, dependent on the subject and his/her actions, can even demolish large amounts of skin, causing anything from a red mark to an open wound. 

Overall, I would take the average turf field over the average grass field any day, but nothing beats a perfectly groomed grass field on a sunny day, as it is safe and efficient. 


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