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Concerns raised over safety of athletes on turf fields

G-max is probably the most important and controversial factor because it is based on how much impact the turf absorbs. A higher G-max level means a harder ground. (KBOI Staff Photo)

More schools and sports teams are installing turf for their playing fields.

Some question how safe these fields are and if they are properly regulated.

Buzz Splittgerber has been hired to test more than 100 fields in seven different states. This includes three schools in the West Ada School District.

He says that because turf is so expensive to install, there is often a 'don't want to know' attitude about safety levels once it is in and this can put players' lives at risk.

Splittgerber uses certified technology to test three factors of turf safety. These include temperature, infill depth, and G-Max.

G-Max is probably the most important and controversial factor because it is based on how much impact the turf absorbs. A higher G-Max level means a harder ground.

"The field is just not absorbing the impact if it's a high number. The cause of the impact, that would be a player in most cases, would be absorbing that," Splittgerber said.

A well kept grass field has a G-Max level between 95 and 110.

Anything below 200 meets the safety standard for turf set by the international standards organization ASTM. Anything above that is where you can expect life threatening head injuries.

"Concussions of course is a big thing right now so that's actually part of the protocol," he said. "To try to get that number to reduce the concussions. About 25% of the head injuries in the NFL are from helmet to ground."

Splittgerber recommends that G-Max levels stay below 165. He believes following the highest allowable standards is still not safe.

"It's like if you were to run into a brick wall at 10 miles an hour," said Splittgerber. "You would expect life threatening head injuries. If you were going 9 miles an hour, you still wouldn't have a good result."

He says safely regulated turf is actually a great option for heavily used fields here in the northwest. Turf is able to handle wear and tear in a moisture rich environment much better than grass.

Splittgerber says life threatening levels can be avoided by testing regularly and installing the newest technology. This includes shorter, denser turf and most importantly a layer of padding underneath.


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