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16,000 Spectators Rally at UNC Hooker Fields

When Brock fields aren’t being sprinted on to meet a soccer pass, or landed upon for a diving touchdown catch, they’re sometimes used to support 16,000 spectators at a rally with the President of the United States! That’s 32,000 feet that were kept comfy during the...

USF Benedetti Baseball Fields “True As The Ball Could Roll”

Baseball and artificial turf might not sound like a good mix, but ask the coaches at the University of San Francisco and they’ll rave about how great Dante Benedetti Field has performed for their team. The diamond was built using organic infill over Brock’s...

EXPLORE BY CATEGORY

The Artificial Turf Debate: Why do Athletes prefer natural grass?
But What About Helmets?
NEW TURF, SAME SHOCK PAD: 1ST REPLACEMENT OVER SHOCKPAD/SERIES
Virginia Soccer Association Plans Renovation with Brock USA
A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 1
A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 2
Olympic Park Selects Brock USA for artificial Turf field Safety & Playability
MLB’s Legacy program comes full circle With Community Fields in Cleveland
Reusing & Value Engineering Shock Pads
Boise State replaces iconic blue turf field for the Second time over Brock
Kenan Stadium Caps off 5-Year Field Safety Initiative at UNC
Avoiding Sports Because Of Fear Could Be Worse For America’s Youth
1ST POWERBASE/YSR AND BROCKFILL INSTALLATION IN MISSISSIPPI AT PEARL HS
Dartmouth continues embracing Safety Technologies with VR Goggles
Road to the World Series Starts on Brock Shock Pads
Artificial Turf & The War on Microplastics: A Call To Action
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The Artificial Turf Debate: Why do Athletes prefer natural grass?

The Artificial Turf Debate: Why do Athletes prefer natural grass?

Studies have shown most athletes prefer playing on quality natural grass fields. The most notable and public disdain for artificial turf comes from the US Women’s National Soccer Team. Shortly after their victory in the 2015 World Cup, the team cancelled a match at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii due to large rips and holes in the field. Fast forward to today, and the announcement that the 2019 and 2022 Women’s World Cups would only be hosted exclusively on natural grass fields was celebrated by many players and fans alike. 

Their aversion to competing on artificial turf has only been reinforced by a recent study released in the the American Journal of Sports Medicine that found playing on artificial turf made an athlete 3x more likely to suffer a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).  The study leveraged 10 years of data on college football injuries from the NCAA Injury Surveillance System, which collects information from Division I, II, and III athletic programs. That data set included over 3 million athlete exposures—times when an athlete participated in a practice or game—and 2,460 knee injuries, making it one of the most robust data samplings to date for comparing natural grass to artificial turf. The study did only focus on football, but it joins a number of other studies that reinforce the reasons why athletes prefer natural grass fields.

“Artificial turf is an important risk factor for specific knee ligament injuries in NCAA football. Injury rates for PCL tears were significantly increased during competitions played on artificial turf as compared with natural grass. Lower NCAA divisions (I and II) also showed higher rates of ACL injuries during the competitions on artificial turf vs. natural grass.”

– AJSM Study

But what if artificial turf was as forgiving, firm, fast, and had similar ball bounce and play as a great natural grass field? What factors go into recreating a great natural surface? If an artificial turf system were created that mimicked natural grass in almost every way, would the athletes come around to embracing artificial turf?

Let’s explore how this can be achieved!

Creating That “Natural Grass” Feel

Many factors go into why natural grass is such an ideal surface for athletes to compete. They range from how athletes’ cleats grip into the rootzone, to how the grass stays cool on hot days, to how it absorbs the impact for falls and dives, and many others.  Some of the key areas were measured in a study by the University of Tennessee that helped the industry establish performance benchmarks to strive towards in artificial turf systems.

Firmness For Running
Athletes want a firm, fast surface, but this has been hard to replicate with crumb rubber because of its innate, bouncy/spongy characteristics. Vertical deformation is how much the field is deformed when run upon, and is generally the “softness under foot” test. These measurements are important because if a surface is too soft an athlete risks ankle, knee, and other joint and soft-tissue injuries. If the surface is too hard we run into the issues like concussions or impact injuries. Brock systems are stiff panels, shown by their ability to spread the running load out over a much greater area, so they provide a firm platform for the field. But the top surface “pistons” are engineered to allow for the right amount of deformation during running.

Ball-to-Surface Interaction 
In a game like soccer, the interaction between the surface and the ball is extremely important. Traditional synthetic fields with crumb rubber infill can change the way a ball bounces and spins when it contacts the turf. This can be frustrating for athletes if the ball reacts in an unexpected way. In the video below, notice how the ball spin changes direction when it impacts crumb rubber, but remains the same when it impacts natural grass.

Ball-to-Surface Interaction 
In a game like soccer, the interaction between the surface and the ball is extremely important. Traditional synthetic fields with crumb rubber infill can change the way a ball bounces and spins when it contacts the turf. This can be frustrating for athletes if the ball reacts in an unexpected way. In the video below, notice how the ball spin changes direction when it impacts crumb rubber, but remains the same when it impacts natural grass.
 Ball-Bounce-Video_1

Unlike crumb rubber, certain organic infills are able to more closely reproduce the ball bounce of a pristine natural grass surface. BrockFILL, shown below, is a wood infill particle specifically engineered to create a more natural feeling surface. Notice how the ball rotation remains the same after impacting the BrockFILL field, much like the natural grass field. 

Ball-Bounce-Video

When comparing crumb rubber and organic infills, another important characteristic is infill splash. Infill splash occurs when the ball strikes the surface and displaces infill particles. Overtime, this can cause an uneven playing surface especially in areas of high traffic like the 18-yard box. With a resilient infill, like crumb rubber, this splash is very noticeable. In a non-resilient infill, like BrockFILL, the splash is minimized. The video below shows the difference.

Ball-Bounce-Video_2

 

Temperature and Odor 
Crumb rubber, the small black particles you see in an artificial turf, is the most common infill and can cause the field to quickly reach unsafe temperatures of 175+ degrees Fahrenheit. This puts athletes at risk for burns, blisters, and heat exhaustion. One of the most noticeable benefits of using an organic infill is the reduced temperature of the playing surface. BrockFill fields are approximately 20 degrees cooler when dry, and 40 degrees cooler when irrigated. 

The BrockFill particles are naturally hydrophilic, so they absorb water and moisture in the air. It is slowly released from the core of the particle, allowing for extended cooling. Replacing crumb rubber with an organic infill also gets rid of the harsh rubber smell associated with the rubber particles, especially in high temperatures. 

Abrasion
One of the most frequent complaints about artificial turf, especially from soccer players, is turf burn or skin abrasions from sliding on the surface. Independent testing from Labosport measures heat generated as a device slides across the turf sample using a mass and speed representative of a sliding athlete. BrockFILL generated the lowest heat score, therefore the lowest abrasion, of any infill, even crumb rubber. Better yet, abrasion is even lower when BrockFILL is damp.

Head Injuries
The “Head Injury Criterion” Test, or HIC Test is the internationally recognized measure for the likelihood of head injury. The HIC impact test uses a Triax 2010 device that allows you to measure the force of a human head when it strikes a playing surface. By following the protocol established by the American Standard for Testing Materials for the F355-16 E-Missile we are able to determine the probability and severity of a head injury. The HIC Impact Test drops a 9.9 lb. hemisphere projectile (curved like a human head) from from increasing heights and measures the impact. The higher the Critical Fall Height, the better the surface. Good quality natural turf will produce a minimum Critical Fall Height of 1.7 Meters. Brock Shock Pads were engineered to perform more like natural grass fields than traditional turf over stone. 

Artificial turf systems have come a long way since their initial creation in the 1960s. New materials and methods allow synthetic surfaces to behave more like pristine natural grass fields, which are highly desired by athletes. This new generation of artificial turf is able to provide all of the benefits of a synthetic surface, while mimicking the best characteristics of a natural field to give players the best experience possible. 

But What About Helmets?

But What About Helmets?

Injuries will always be a part of athletics, but it is up to both the companies creating the safety products and the institutions using these products to make sure the athletes involved are properly protected. Riddell, the leading manufacturer of football helmets, is being sued over allegedly manufacturing helmets that do not protect against concussions. As technology improves, companies must innovate to create safer products to reduce the risk of injury for their clients and avoid liability. Take for example how Brock USA has continually improved its design for shock pads.   

The original PerformanceBase shock pad line from Brock USA was engineered to reduce Gmax,  (the hardness of the field), but in 2004 the industry was not talking about Head Injury Criteria (HIC), nor did we know as much about brain injuries then as we do now. As our knowledge increased, that product line evolved into PowerBase/PRO and PowerBase/YSR; which improved impact attenuation for head impacts, and was also tuned for the impacts of different sized athletes.  The original PerformanceBase still outperforms any of the non-Brock shock pads on market, but the Brock engineers weren’t comfortable kicking back and considering the original design sufficient.

Universities, school districts, municipalities and private institutions can only do so much and are at the mercy of what the market offers 

In the court case of Darren Hamblin, he believes the market – specifically Riddell Helmets – did not rise to the challenge. In 2016, Darren lost his son Cody Hamblin to a seizure and subsequent drowning and the autopsy revealed that Cody had CTE. Darren Hamblin is suing Riddell under the claims that their helmets are the reason for the CTE and the untimely death of his son. 

“We actually did a lot of research and talked to some doctors and felt like it would be very safe with all the equipment and protection that the children were wearing — helmets and all that,” said Darren Hamblin in an interview with Good Morning America.  

Riddell is one of the leading football helmet companies in the US. But like so many companies that pioneer an idea, they grow large and become entrapped in their own original philosophy. They begin to operate from the idea, “We can’t innovate because that would send a message that our older products are not safe.”  Imagine if the automobile industry didn’t want to put airbags into cars for the same reason.

This idea may sound absurd, but it occurs in the artificial turf industry as well.  The leading turf manufacturer, for example, continues to fight improvements in safety standards and deny shock pads make fields safer. They have promoted and established their original message for so long, that any shift would make them appear wrong, not to mention cost a fortune in rebranding. They are concerned (and so are other turf companies) that if we make fields safer and they  cost a little more, no one will purchase them and their market will shrink.

Again, a philosophy that has been proven wrong on so many occasions.  Motorola was the leading phone company until Apple thought it could make something better and charge twice the price.   America is a country that always demands better, and one that is populated with innovators and the wealth to make ideas happen. Americans never sit still. This is why new entrepreneurs and companies are challenging the status quo.

On the helmet side, Dr. Robert Knight, A Neurologist from The University of California Berkeley, started his own helmet company and created a new design. “The basic principle is to have your head protected by having the exterior part of the helmet actually slide and move,” said Knight. “It’s connected to an interior shell by struts, and when it slides and moves, the energy gets dissipated by the struts. It’s similar to what they do on a suspension bridge to try to diminish energy.”  

Knight’s technology is very new and still far out from mass production and sale. Knight’s company will continue testing, but could be in production sooner rather than later. 

Another company that is leading the field in helmet technology is Vicis Helmets. For three years in a row they have partnered with the NFL and conducted lab testing at a different independent lab each year. When testing for head impact severity, Vicis had the top ranked helmets according to the three different laboratories over three different years.

All markets evolve through innovative new thinking, and sports safety is no exception. Vicis, Brain Guard, and Brock USA, although not the oldest, nor the largest, are all companies that have adopted new/upgraded technologies to make sports safer for all athletes. 

NEW TURF, SAME SHOCK PAD: 1ST REPLACEMENT OVER SHOCKPAD/SERIES

NEW TURF, SAME SHOCK PAD: 1ST REPLACEMENT OVER SHOCKPAD/SERIES

After seven years of festivals, events, youth programs, and of course, seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the surface that handled all that weight and traffic will be replaced. While the turf must be replaced at Highmark Stadium due to wear and tear, the design of Brock’s ShockPad/14 enables it to withstand the wear and tear of years of play and the panels are being reused for the next turf cycle.

Brock has had other turf replacements over PowerBase, but this is the first time for the ShockPad/SERIES. The whole process is fairly simple, both the turf and the panels are removed followed by an inspection of the ground beneath the panels to make sure it is still in good condition. Next, the panels are reinstalled as they were before and a new turf layer is placed on top.  

“It’s not a hard product to take up and put down, I think that the ease of installation is definitely a plus. The comfort and level of support it provides for the players is huge and overall we are real happy with the product.”

– Kevin Johnston, General Manager – Pittsburgh Riverhounds
This process of reusing the same panels is not only easy when it comes to reinstallation, but the panels are more resilient than just turf over stone and far more cost-effective in the long run.

“The other high-end turf pro fields in the U.S. are all being torn out every two years, and those are on stone,” said the Director of Soccer at AstroTurf, Carl Capellas. “It’s just not realistic for anybody.”

Capellas makes a valid point, why cash out on a new field every two years when you can invest in a quality product now and easily have 7+ years of great field life. Many professional sports teams have enough money to get a new field every two years, but it’s a massive waste of time and resources. It’s much easier and cheaper in the end to install a quality shock pad that will last for many years to come, as the Riverhounds are finding out.

Furthermore, the quality of the pad has maintained all these years, being both absorbent enough for hard impacts and helping reduce injury risk, while also being firm enough to provide quality ball bounce and good footing for cuts and running. Even after seven years, the difference between padded turf and normal turf over stone is clear.

“We are building a [sports] complex about ten miles from the city and we are doing ten fields out there,” said Kevin Johnston. “Those ten fields, we’re not doing any padding on and you can definitely tell the difference between the two (where the Riverhounds play and this new sports complex).”

Another positive that comes along with Brock’s ShockPad/14, is the durability. While the field has lasted for seven seasons worth of soccer, in reality it’s lasted far longer because soccer matches haven’t been the only event taking place at this field.

“I have had concerts and festivals with heavy foot traffic and all kinds of stuff, and surprisingly that padding held up phenomenally over seven years,” Johnston said. “Well enough that obviously we can put it back down and be able to continue using it.”

The first reinstallation of Brock’s ShockPad/14 proved to be just as simple as it was when it was first installed seven years ago. On top of that, everyone involved in the project was pleased to see how durable the panels actually were, especially the front office of the Riverhounds who now don’t have to pay nearly as much to get their pitch back to pristine condition, according to Johnston.

Virginia Soccer Association Plans Renovation with Brock USA

Virginia Soccer Association Plans Renovation with Brock USA

“Matt Lacey and the board members of VSA should be commended for the amount of time and effort they spent educating themselves about the new and different options available. By selecting Brock ShockPad/17 and BrockFill, they are not only showing their commitment to providing the safest and most environmentally friendly fields they can for their members, but are also paving the way for others in the area by pioneering the next generation of synthetic turf soccer fields. Brock USA is beyond thrilled to be working with this forward thinking club and can’t wait to see kids enjoying these new fields at Long Park for years to come.t”

– Ronnie Pascale, East Region Vice President, Brock USA

The Virginia Soccer Association (VSA) Board of Directors and staff announced Monday that the three turf fields at James Long Park will get a state-of-the-art renovation that delivers unparalleled player safety, extraordinary durability and minimal environmental impact.

As the James Long Park turf fields were near the end of their lifespan, the need for field improvements was paramount.  The VSA Board of Directors and staff completed nearly two years of research to satisfy the club’s requirements for player safety and team performance.

 “We underwent an extensive evaluation of the turf products in the marketplace to find the best for our athletes and our club,” said Michael Bachman, president, VSA Board of Directors. “What we are getting is an elite level turf system that will significantly benefit our players for years to come.”

Core Contractors, LLC (Core) located in Woodbridge, VA has been selected to manage the $1.6 million installation of Shaw Sports Legion Turf and Brock USA state-of-the-art BrockFILL® and ShockPad system.  With more than 20 years athletic field construction experience in the DC Metropolitan area, Core will provide ongoing service of the fields to ensure that ball playability and athlete performance are maintained.

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 1

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 1

An in-depth look at the current testing method used to measure rotational resistance and traction, and how IT is failing to provide realistic simulations of athlete-to-surface interaction.

Stability, consistency, and adequate traction with appropriate cleat release are key characteristics of a playing surface that offers both safety and performance for the athlete. When an athlete plants a foot, pivots, jumps, lands, or runs, the characteristics of the playing surface upon which the movements are performed can influence the likelihood of a lower extremity injury, such as ankle sprains, ACL or PCL tears, and other soft tissue damage.

Recently published studies that analyzed NFL and NCAA football injury data over multiple seasons found higher rates of lower extremity injuries on artificial turf than on natural grass surfaces. Although natural turf remains the preferred surface for the vast majority of athletes, not all facilities can maintain a quality natural grass surface, especially when field usage is high. Thus, artificial turf has proliferated due to its ability to accommodate heavy usage, even when subjected to adverse weather and climatic conditions, and its reduced need for water, among other factors.

Resistance to the rotation of a cleated foot is a measure used to characterize how a surface will respond when an athlete plants a foot and pivots. Too much resistance to rotation can cause the foot to become “fixed” to the surface, allowing potentially injurious forces to be transmitted to connective tissue in the foot, ankle, and knee. This type of twisting motion is a common cause of lower extremity injuries. Too little resistance can cause the athlete to lose footing, causing slippage and limiting performance on the field. A good artificial turf surface, when coupled with the right footwear, should ideally provide enough traction to prevent the athlete from slipping, but not so much as to increase injury risk beyond that of a high-quality natural turf surface.

The test and equipment most commonly used to assess rotational resistance in sports turf have been standardized in BS EN 15301-1. A predecessor to the current device was originally developed in the 1970s for assessing traction on natural turf (originally, this was referred to as the “shear strength” of the turf/rootzone).

The current test involves the operator dropping a test foot – a 46 kg cleated metal disc – onto the surface from a height of 60 mm and then using a two-handled torque wrench attached to the top of the device to manually rotate the test foot through at least 45 degrees of rotation at a prescribed speed (12 rpm, or 72 degrees/second) without applying any additional downward force. The test foot is 150 mm in diameter and has six 13 mm plastic cleats located 46 mm from the center of the test foot and equally spaced in a circular pattern. Typically, five measurements are taken, and the average of the peak torques generated during each test is reported as the rotational resistance for the surface. The device has been referred to variously as the “torque wrench tester,” “rotational resistance tester”, “studded boot apparatus,” and “studded disc apparatus.

This test has been criticized for many reasons. First, it does not simulate a realistic athlete-to-surface interaction, as the loads and speeds associated with the test are not equivalent to the higher forces and speeds of a real athlete. Additionally, the cleat pattern on the test foot does not mimic that of an actual cleat an athlete would use. A critical review of sports surface assessment tests authored by Nigg nearly 30 years ago recognized and recommended that traction testing (both rotational and linear) should be done using forces that mimic the actual forces between the athlete and the surface, as “tests performed with smaller forces may lead to erroneous conclusions.” It was also noted that “tests with standardized test feet are not expected to provide relevant information with respect to actual shoe-surface combinations.”

Studies evaluating the manual torque wrench test have also found relatively poor reproducibility between operators, which likely stems from the fact that the rotational speed must be controlled by the operator (and is almost never measured for verification purposes), and because any additional downward force applied by the operator can introduce error (it will typically increase the measured torque). In a study using an instrumented version of the device that could measure torque as a function of rotation angle throughout the entire test, it was found that the peak torque, which is the only value reported for this test, was reached at roughly 40 degrees of rotation (on average), which is likely much greater than the actual rotation of the foot during athletic movements. This study and others have also suggested that metrics other than peak torque, such as the rotational stiffness (the slope of the torque vs. rotation angle curve shortly after rotation begins but well before peak torque is achieved), may be more useful in understanding player-surface interaction and injury risk.

Although more sophisticated traction testing devices exist, they are not practical for daily transport and use. Since testing often needs to be conducted on actual fields, the portability of the equipment is important. While the current device is smaller and more portable than the larger biofidelic test devices, it still weighs over 100 lb and is cumbersome to operate and maneuver.

A lighter-weight device is currently being developed. It is designed to give the same results as the current rotational resistance test but uses the operator’s body weight to compress a calibrated spring and apply the 46 kg vertical load. It will improve portability and ease of use, but the same criticisms and shortcomings of the current device will still apply.

For lack of a better test, FIFA and other organizations have adopted the use of the BS EN 15301-1 “torque wrench test” to assess rotational resistance in artificial turf surfaces. The current acceptable range for rotational resistance tests on installed fields is 25-50 N·m (for the “FIFA Quality” designation, and the multi-sport consensus “OneTurf Concept” endorsed by FIFA, World Rugby, the Synthetic Turf Council, and others).

Considering the most recent evidence from NFL and NCAA data indicating that lower extremity injuries are more frequent and severe on artificial turf with sand/rubber infill than on natural turf, and that most or all of the artificial turf fields that were part of these studies would likely fall within the 25-50 N·m range when tested with the torque wrench tester, it begs the question, “what this test is really telling us about player-surface interaction and injury risk?”

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 2

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 2

Improved Methods for Measuring Rotational Resistance in Artificial and Natural Grass Playing Surfaces.

A number of sophisticated devices have been developed to measure rotational resistance and traction for artificial and natural grass playing surfaces.  These devices more closely mimic the forces and speeds typical of real athletes and can be used with actual athletic footwear, making them much better tools for studying and understanding player-surface interaction than the current rotational resistance device.

In a study comparing one such device, the PENNFOOT apparatus developed at Penn St. University, to the torque wrench tester on natural turf systems, the correlation between results from the two devices was poor. Though an improvement over earlier traction testing devices, the developers of PENNFOOT state that it “was not designed to simulate actual human foot movements,” as the cast aluminum foot is completely rigid and the types of foot motion are limited. Another device, called the BEAST (BioCore Elite Athlete Shoe-Surface Tester), was developed by Dr. Richard Kent, a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia who works closely with the NFL on athlete safety issues. Using this device outfitted with a “general purpose” cleat pattern, professional football fields (game fields and practice fields) were tested for resistance to rotation.

The natural grass fields produced peak rotational torque values ranging from roughly 130 to 160 N·m (average of 145 N·m). Artificial turf surfaces with sand/rubber infill had an average peak torque of 197 N·m, which was essentially the maximum value the device was able to produce during the test. Roughly 80% of the synthetic surfaces tested did not “release” during rotation like the natural turf, which can divot or tear and thereby limit the forces experienced by the athlete’s lower body.

One criticism of this device is that, like the PENNFOOT apparatus, the test foot is rigid and does not move like a human foot in an athletic shoe. The most recent development in traction testing is the FLEX tester at the University of Tennessee Center for Athletic Field Safety. It can measure linear and rotational traction in natural and synthetic surfaces. Force plate data collected from real athletes by researchers in the University of Tennessee Department of Biomechanics were used to determine realistic operating parameters for the device.

FLEX tester at the University of Tennessee Center for Athletic Field Safety

Unlike the torque wrench test, the FLEX tester is able to simulate the forces and speeds of an athlete planting a foot and then rotating it. An anthropomorphic foot allows for actual athletic cleats to be tested in order to identify optimal footwear for a given surface. This device can be used to perform simulated athletic movements in order to gain a better understanding of the forces and torques experienced by the athlete’s body and to better predict whether or not a given shoe-surface combination will be safe for athletes.

In the process of developing BrockFILL™, the Brock team wanted to use the best available equipment to understand the rotational traction characteristics of synthetic turf systems that use BrockFILL as the performance infill layer. The rotational resistance of an artificial turf plot infilled with sand and BrockFILL was determined using the FLEX tester at the University of Tennessee.

Its performance was benchmarked against the rotational torques generated when testing high-quality natural sports turf and a conventional artificial turf system infilled with crumb rubber and sand. The results showed that the peak torque in the BrockFILL turf system was between that of a high-quality Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass field. The same artificial turf, when tested with crumb rubber and sand infill, showed roughly 40% higher resistance to rotation than the BrockFILL system.

These results, using one of the most sophisticated and realistic traction testing devices available, show that the BrockFILL system can achieve performance on par with that of high-quality natural sports turf. They also support the previous findings of Kent and others that sand/rubber turf systems have higher rotational resistance than natural turf, which may help provide a mechanistic explanation for the results from recent studies of NFL and NCAA injury data that showed higher rates of lower-extremity injury on artificial turf systems.

With its ongoing support of university and independent laboratory research as well as its development of breakthrough turf products like BrockFILL, Brock continues to lead the artificial turf industry in the quest for athlete safety and performance.

Olympic Park Selects Brock USA for artificial Turf field Safety & Playability

Olympic Park Selects Brock USA for artificial Turf field Safety & Playability

Schaumburg, ILOlympic Park is a 72-acre site boasting over 550,555 sq. ft. of synthetic turf for soccer. Since the park opened in 1995, it has hosted thousands of matches which led them to choose synthetic turf with a shock pad as the safest playing surface to handle all of the foot traffic from local athletic events and regional tournaments, according to Todd King, Superintendent of Parks and Planning for Schaumburg Park District.

Brock USA, the nationwide leader in engineered shock pads, partnered with synthetic turf giant, FieldTurf, to install three fields in 2018 and are replacing three more fields for completion this summer. The fields all feature Brock’s ShockPad/14 system made from polypropylene which allows the synthetic field to play more like a natural grass field in terms of safety – by helping to reduce the risk of head and lower extremity injuries, provide more natural ball bounce, and better cleat-to-turf interaction for the athlete.

“I’m a big fan of the new fields with the shock pad because the ball hugs the floor better and there are no unnatural hops. It just plays better. If it extends the life the of the field, then that is a big plus for organizations, especially when you consider the added safety value.”

– Tony Kees, U15-U19 Sockers FC Chicago Academy Coach, USSF National A licensed

Olympic Park’s highest profile tenant is Sockers FC Chicago, one of the most successful US Soccer Development Academies in the country, and was the home to many male and female professional players like Michael Bradley, Jay DeMerit, Katie Naughton, and Jonathan Spector.

King says, “Our participants have noted that the fields feel similar to real grass fields.” He chose to use a shock pad because “it offers a consistent, safe surface for our new fields.” Another perk for Olympic Park in choosing a ShockPad/14 system is the durability it offers. The pad has a warranty guaranteeing at least 16 years, which is about two life cycles of turf.

FieldTurf installed their Vertex Prime turf comprised of specially designed slit-film fibers and high performance rigid monofilament fibers. The fibrillation process of the slit-film component allows for proper infill encapsulation while the monofilament fibers facilitate grass-like ball roll. Both fibers are tufted together in the same stitch for a superior aesthetic appearance. They included an organic infill called PureSelect made from three materials: sand, olive cores, and an extruded composite (EC) topdressing called CoolPlay. Together it is environmentally friendly, locally sourced, and helps to reduce heat on the field. This turf system added with the Brock artificial turf shock pad, will provide peace of mind and great playability for years to come at Olympic Park.

MLB’s Legacy program comes full circle With Community Fields in Cleveland

MLB’s Legacy program comes full circle With Community Fields in Cleveland

In 1997, baseballs Midsummer Classic came to the city of Cleveland and with it came a new tradition that remains today. Each year since, Major League Baseball, through the All-Star Legacy initiative program, couples with a host city’s team to give back to their community. This year that program comes full circle, MLB and Cleveland Indians will give $5 Million back to the community for several enrichment programs/projects.  

“With the Legacy Project for the All-Star game, they [Major League Baseball] are making a gift,” said Cleveland Indians Director of Community, Rebecca Kodysh. “So, it’s not just coming here and hosting the All-Star game and home run derby, MLB also makes a significant gift to leave a legacy to the city.”   

Two of the projects are outdoor parks and both are field renovations. One of the fields being renovated is at Luke Easter Park and will now be called All-Star Field. The other field being renovated is Talty Field at Cleveland Metroparks Brookside Reservation. Both fields will include turf installs, but only the field at Luke Easter Park will include ShockPad/14, according to Kodysh. 

Part of the reason for using turf is because MLB and the city of Cleveland want it to be accessible for use year around, ensuring safe play regardless of weather conditions. By including a shock pad at Luke Easter Park, the MLB and Cleveland Indians have made sure that this field will stand the test of time while keeping its community safe. 

“The reason why we wanted to have shock pads installed is so we can get the most use out of the field and use it for multiple sports,” said Kodysh.

There are many ways shock pads improve the condition of the sports surface. First and foremost, to reduce the risk of concussions it’s important to make sure the safest system is in place. Another reason is that shock pads save money. A quality shock pad is a one-time investment that lasts multiple turf replacements. On top of that, turf lasts longer over a shock pad.  Pitches with no shock pad have been proven to wear out quicker than those with shock pads, as the pad primarily protects turf backing from abrasion caused by a hard surface such as stone or asphalt. 

“One of the tenets of our mission is to strengthen communities, so this is part of baseball’s DNA,” MLB’s Vice President of Social Responsibility, Melanie LeGrande, said. “So to be able to work with the host club and leave a lasting impact after we’re gone, after all the All-Star players have gone, after the game has been played, what Cleveland will have is two fully turfed fields where kids can continue to play our game, strengthen their skills, and be what we call ‘Major League citizens.’ So that’s really important to us.” 

The other two projects are both indoor, with the first being an All-Star Student Veterans Center at Baldwin Wallace University. This building will be converted from an old single-family home into a new facility with a lounge, gaming area, full kitchen, and bathrooms.  

The third project will be a Digital Arts Suite at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s East Tech Teen Center. Brand new equipment and collaborative workspaces as well as new lounge area will be installed. This project will not only benefit the Boys and Girls clubs, but also the students of East Technical High School who will also get to utilize the space. The hope is that the retention rate in both the classroom and in Boys and Girls clubs will rise significantly.  

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is our official charity and we’ll always do a project with them as well,” said LeGrande. “To see the youth, the teams and the new East Technical Center, this visual arts suite we’re putting together, to be able to be exposed to some STEM skills is great for us not just from a baseball perspective, but a community perspective.” 

In addition to the main four projects, Larry Doby All-Star playground will also be renovated, receiving updated equipment and flooring. This is noteworthy because this park was originally constructed 22 years ago as part of the first ever Legacy Project Initiative during the 1997 Cleveland All-Star game.  

“The first legacy project was actually done here in Cleveland and were proud of that,” said Kodysh. “The Cleveland Indians, historically, have been quite generous and we have been supported on youth baseball and softball programs for a number of years.” 

A little background information about Larry Doby, he was the second baseball player to break the color barrier and the first African American in the American league. Just three months after Jackie Robinson went to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby signed with the Indians.  

Doby played for a handful of teams, but Cleveland was where he played his best ball and felt at home. He was inducted to the Indians hall of fame in 1966, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Indians renamed the name of a street next to Progressive Field “Larry Doby Way” in 2012.  Larry stepped on the diamond in Cleveland for the first time in 1947, 72 years later and his legacy still lives on stronger than ever.  

Reusing & Value Engineering Shock Pads

Reusing & Value Engineering Shock Pads

In many countries now, the number of pitch refurbishments is significantly higher than new pitch installations.

This dynamic supports the fact that for the private owner, council facility operators, sports club or a contractor, a feasibility study to assess the reuse of a shock pad is key to realising the budget and increases the probability that refurbishment plans can move forward. Only a laboratory with accreditation and the appropriate testing facilities can provide an independent, non-commercial statistical analysis to assess refurbishment project costs with accuracy. Commonly these results are requested by governing bodies and should be appended to the new field reports. Without this step, many contractors are apt to price without any knowledge as to what lies beneath the surface, thus creating a risk of sudden increases to the budget during installation and cost over-runs. Without this, it would be wise to carry a significant contingency fund to be able to cater for what lies beneath.

The main problem during the feasibility stage is that the existing facility may still be in use, perhaps leased out as a revenue generator, and most commonly artificial grass will be covering the shock pad. There is a solution to this problem, and it’s exercised frequently – it’s a requirement as per governing body specifications. It is part of the FIFA Quality Programme and the Handbook of Test Methods for Football Turf.

Below are some photos of examples of in-situ sampling of shock pads which demonstrate the type of testing carried out.

Here we will look at the type of shock pads that are commonly sampled as well as mandated testing via FIFA, forensic testing, the costs associated with undertaking inspection, and the time required to complete everything.

Type of Shock pad: In-situ or Prefabricated?
Every shock pad is a candidate for reuse and a feasibility study. The two common types of shock pads are in-situ and prefabricated. In-situ (or e-layers) comprise of a mixture of PU binder and granulated rubber crumb and are laid on-site, occasionally the PU/Rubber can be mixed with clean stone to change the properties of the shock pad. For In-situ, a shock pad’s long term performance is dependent on many factors such as binder content, SBR shape, size, chemical composition, and contaminant, to name a few. In-situ/elayer type shock pads naturally degrade over time due to oxidation of the thin binder film which sticks the rubber granulate together. Even under normal stress, they lose their tensile strength and elongation properties. Sometimes the life expectancy of in-situ pads are not reached, and the binder contents are not always to contract. As a rudimental assessment, if loose rubber is visible on top of the pad, there may be underlying issues, and the pad could be failing. It’s also a concern if the shock pad is brittle. In several recent projects, we have seen carpet bound with glue to the shock pad, and this diminishes the chances of its reuse as it is challenging to remove the existing carpet without extensive damage to the In-situ.

Prefabricated shock pads are made with a variety of different material types, density, thickness, shape, and design. They are typically manufactured in a plant and transferred to the site where they are laid loosely and jointed in several ways — butted together with jointing tape, a key link design, or tongue and groove design to name a few. Most pads are constructed from bi-product PE, PU or expanded PPE, but due to heat expansion properties, they may require slits or grooves to prevent disruptive expansion and contraction from temperature changes. Many large producers have evolved to optimize their designs to the European, ASTM, Italian, and Dutch standards. There are now ESTC guidelines which are very descriptive.

Prefabricated shock pads generally have a longer life expectancy, with some manufacturers offering warranties beyond 20 years. Always be sure to check the warranty on these shock pads when considering budgeting for a refurbishment.

Testing Table
FIFA Manual Extract

“Despite practical implications when a turf has not yet been replaced, it is not acceptable to determine the suitability based on the values obtained from testing the corner areas only. Tests shall be made no sooner than 12 months before the initial field test after resurfacing. The results of the shock pad tests shall be appended to the FIFA Field Test Report and issued to FIFA following the initial field test. Compliance with the above requirements does not override the need for the field to fully satisfy the field test requirements of the FIFA Quality Programme.’’

Costs
A feasibility study on the shock pad will vary dependant on the scope of works, but the work can generally be carried out on site in under one day. Samples are then taken back to the laboratory for further examination of tensile strength and elongation properties. It is half a day’s work for a competent test technician in a laboratory to complete these tests. Often the turf system will need to be cut open to allow access to the underlying shock pad. This is a specialist activity, especially if the pitch is still in use. Here an installer would be called upon to open and close the turf so that proper joints are made in the playing surface. In comparison to buying a new shock pad and perhaps repairing the asphalt, the costs of a site assessment are a fraction of these, which makes it a cost-effective approach to de-risking your refurbishment contract. Exclusive of international travel, an in-situ inspection is typically less than 1% of the cost of a new shock pad, making it a very cost-effective approach to assessing the reusability of a shock pad system.

Test Locations
FIFA requires 6 test locations, as seen below in Figure 2. This is compulsory for FIFA Quality Pro or Quality certification. Many projects proceed without this, unknowingly stepping outside the rules and quite regularly experiencing problems after refurbishment during certification testing

Reinstatement of the Surface After Testing
A competent maintenance contractor, or commonly an interested contractor for the refurbishment can reinstate the 1m2 areas on the field straight after the test. Glue and new seaming tape are needed with the original carpet being re-used. Again approximately half a day’s work for a competent site installation contractor. Time is required for the glues to set so this may put your pitch out of action overnight. The key is knowledge of how and where to make the clean carpet cut, so the repair is much easier after testing is complete.

Feasibility is Value Engineering
Whenever it’s possible, it is always good to re-use suitable components because it reduces the carbon footprint and ultimately cost. There’s a wealth of knowledge available on this subject and protocols you can follow to benefit your project.

Thank you Niall MacPhee, International Business Development Manager at Sportslabs, for writing such a great article!

Boise State replaces iconic blue turf field for the Second time over Brock

Boise State replaces iconic blue turf field for the Second time over Brock

Boise State University made history back in 1986 when they installed the first-ever, non-green artificial turf field in the country. Since then, the turf has been replaced in 1995, 2002, 2008, 2010, and now in 2019. Along with new turf, the field was upgraded in 2008 with a new component, Brock Shock Pads.

The updated turf marks another milestone for the industry – Brock’s artificial turf shock pads are the only pre-fabricated pads on the market to have two turf replacements while remaining in great condition.  The shock pad system has already outlasted it’s original 10-year warranty and with the expectation of a full turf life out of the new replacement turf it may double.

“It’s way brighter, looks way cleaner and it’s beautiful,” said Boise State Head Football coach Bryan Harsin in the Idaho Press. “It looks much better now, and we’ve been running and working out on it already and the players love it. It’s got good grip; it has more bounce and it’s not as hard as the other turf. You can really tell a difference 

The type of pad that is installed at this field is called Performance Base, which is actually the first type of pad Brock USA ever produced for widespread use. Since the shock pad install in 2008 at Boise State, Performance base has evolved into PowerBase and then evolved again to split off into PowerBase/Pro and PowerBase/YSR. Even though Performance Base is now out of production, it is still holding up just as well today in 2019, as it was eleven years ago.   

Boise State’s field at Albertsons Stadium, since 2008, has not just played host to football games, but also soccer games, youth camps, fairs and festivals, and even huge concerts that fill the stadium to maximum capacity. Sitting right beneath the turf and supporting all that weight is the Brock Shock Pad system. The pads are designed to survive wear and tear from sports, but also all kinds of other activities and events. In fact, on July 20th, 2019, the pads will get to prove themselves once again as Garth Brooks comes to play a sold out at show at Albertsons Stadium.

The field was unveiled to the public on Wednesday, May 5th, 2019. Fans got a chance to check out the new turf, toss a football around, and even buy a piece of the old turf if they wanted for $39.99 a piece. In the past, Boise State has sold or given away their turf for reuse, but this turf was too worn to re-sell.

The new turf will officially debut on Sept. 6 when the Broncos host Marshall in the home opener at 7 p.m. 

Kenan Stadium Caps off 5-Year Field Safety Initiative at UNC

Kenan Stadium Caps off 5-Year Field Safety Initiative at UNC

Excitement is mounting for the 2019 North Carolina Tar heels football season. The team has already sold out every home game, brought back Hall of Fame Head Coach Mack Brown, and rolled out substantial facility upgrades for its athletes – most notably, the newly renovated Kenan Stadium which features a Brock PowerBase/PRO artificial turf shock pad system to protect the athletes every time they run out of the locker room to 51,000 screaming fans. 

What people might not know about the recent stadium upgrade is that it’s been part of a much larger, campus-wide initiative.  The university first met five years ago to discuss their master plan to create safe playing environments for all their student athletes, from intramural warriors to the elite athletes taking to the gridiron. 

We started an athletic facilities master plan in January of 2014. We spent about 13 months working on that plan and the anchor project that was identified through that process was an indoor practice facility and a new practice complex for the football program. That had several projects spawn from that decision. We built new practice fields for our soccer and lacrosse programs in advance of beginning construction on the football practice complex,” said Mike Bunting, who served as Associate Athletic Director for Facility Planning and Management at the time. “That’s when we started thinking about the field technology and what we need in athletic fields, ‘How are we best going to serve the folks that are going to use those fields?’ We made the decision that any synthetic fields we develop as part of the plan, we were going to share the use of those fields with campus recreation and the university. 

This planning allowed UNC to meet the growing demand for usable athletic spaces for its active student body. The heavy use from men’s and women’s soccer, lacrosse, and the plethora of intramural leagues made the decision to go with artificial turf a no brainer, according to Bunting. That’s where FitFields and Landscape Architect, Dan Dodd came into the picture. 

“They are not just worried about the scholarship athletes, they are worried about the club athletes, the recreational players, the intramural players, and the casual players, so I think they just have a very strong awareness for student health and wellness,” Dodd said.

The confidence the planning members at UNC had with FitFields came from Dodd’s own 20-years’ experience working with athletic facilities and his extensive knowledge building high-performance systems within the Carolinas.  

“Dan is amazing. We have a really good relationship with him and have really enjoyed developing these projects with him. Dan is really in tune with all the latest and greatest in field technology, what all the synthetic turf manufacturers are doing and helping us compare and contrast those products. Of course, when you are talking about these fields and varsity athletics safety is a critical factor in the decision-making process,” said Bunting.  “The Brock Pad adds such a level of safety to what you’re doing, you want to do the absolute best you can do for the folks that are going to be using these fields and that’s the best technology that we are aware of on the market.” 

The Brock Shock Pad system was a critical component of every field design. The 25-year warranty, its Cradle-to-Cradle Certifications for environmental impacts, and the ability to hit safety and performance measurements comparable to great natural grass fields were incredibly important factors, according to Dodd. 

“Brock is one of the key elements of mimicking natural grass systems, which is the ultimate goal that we’re trying to get to with synthetic turf fields,” Dodd said. “To design a field that can come as close as possible to the real thing with the infill being the wild card on a variety of levels, but the Brock pad definitely gives us Gmax and HIC numbers that we can compare to natural grass fields, so it’s a very good base system for us to get us as close as we can.” 

Once the planning and considerations for the campus fields took shape, the shovels kicked into the ground and work began on the first of the six fields on campus. Hooker fields, the intramural facilities on campus, were the first to take shape. Then followed the soccer/lacrosse practice facilities at Finley North. Both those projects utilized PowerBase/YSR. This system was engineered for a broader range of athletes and reduces the risk of injuries while keeping the playing surface firm and fast.  

The fields at Finley North brought to light another one of the major advantages to a Brock PowerBase shock pad system – the drainage. The fields were completely submerged during Hurricane Florence last fall, but within 24 hours the water had drained from the flood plain and the soccer and lacrosse teams were able to get out and use the facilities.  

The next projects in the plan were designed for the elite football players at UNC and incorporated Brock’s PowerBase/PRO line of artificial turf shock pads.  This system is denser and has a larger impact piston design to provide the necessary impact absorption for larger, more physical athletes. The outdoor practice facility was completed last fall and the indoor practice facility was completed this spring.  

“Having done these projects in the past and working with the designers, we knew what we were getting and we knew what we wanted, putting Brock under these fields was a must for us. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about design, we knew what we wanted and the designers were able to give it to us,” said Casey Carrick, the current Director of Athletic Grounds and Turf Management. 

Those projects led up to the final major campus renovation, Kenan Stadium. The decision to move away from a natural grass surface in the stadium, which was one of the best in the nation, was not taken lightly.  The final considerations came down to allowing for more play on the field, the ability for it to be used by other sports – not just football, and the preferences from Coach Brown, according to Carrick. 

“There’s pros and cons to both synthetic turf and natural grass and we love them both, we design both. We love the purity of natural grass and if we have the ability to do it, grow it, maintain it, and keep it at professional level quality, then it’s a great option for folks, but this university experiences a lot of pressures for other groups to use this field other than just for football,” Dodd said. “Having the flexibility to have lacrosse in the stadium and for other users to use it for practice routinely, I think that was one of their decisions for the conversion as well, so it wasn’t just for football, it is also for multi-use aspects of that field.” 

Kenan Stadium was toured by the media just last week and Coach Brown highlighted some of the features brought to the field by including a Brock PowerBase/PRO system. The tour was told how the field had experienced a torrential downpour already and within minutes the field was dry because of its ability to drain water at 200 inches/hour. The guide also stated, “…the Brock Shock Pad, that’s what makes it operate almost just like grass.”

“It’s the latest best technology you can absolutely get in any kind of synthetic grass field,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Steinbacher said. “The only system that tests with the same specifications as grass is the system that I just described to you that we put in out here.” 

The Brock PowerBase/PRO shock pads were the key component in the artificial turf system at Kenan Stadium that allowed these achievements to take place, according to Carrick. 

“I think at the end of the day the goal is to make any synthetic field play like a well-maintained natural grass field,” Carrick said. “With the Brock shock pad, we are allowed to change the infill a little bit, we can go with a little more sand, make it a little firmer while still keeping the impact levels low. We can tweak the field a little bit, we can have shorter fibers in the turf, just different infills to achieve different things. That’s what the pad allows us to do and still feel comfortable with the safety levels on the field.”

All these improvements to the field, combined with the locker rooms, medical technologies, nutrition centers, and more, show a heavy investment into the athletes and students at UNC. When asked at a press conference why this was so important, Coach Brown responded, (the players) need to know that they are important. They need to know that there is change coming.”

Avoiding Sports Because Of Fear Could Be Worse For America’s Youth

Avoiding Sports Because Of Fear Could Be Worse For America’s Youth

Sports have been played, in one version or another, in almost every culture dating back thousands of years. Something about sports drives people from all corners of the earth to want to compete. People play different sports depending where they are from, but the core values, lessons, and experiences can be more or less the same.     

Unfortunately, in recent years there has been a growing mindset in the United States that sports are causing more harm than good. There are a few reasons for this mindset, one reason stemming from the amount play time some kids get compared to others, another reason being privatized teams, where only wealthy families can afford to participate. However, the biggest reason of them all is safety. It seems like every day more and more news stories are coming out about head and body injuries, unsafe field conditions, and poor sportsmanship.  

The parents who are not letting their children play sports for these reasons have a valid argument. There can be a lot of danger in sports, but just like other parts of life, running away from the problem isn’t going to fix anything. The answer is not to stop playing sports, but to make sports safer and more inclusive for all. There are numerous benefits to participating in at least just one sport, such as staying physically fit, learning life skills, and even increasing academic success at school.  

One of the most important reasons to participate in sports is to stay physically fit. With the age of technology fully upon us, it’s far more likely to see children playing on their phones rather than with a soccer ball. While technology adds a lot to our lives, it doesn’t get us moving around all that much, which is something the body actually craves. While a big bonus of staying physically active is looking fit on the outside, inside the body our bones benefit from physical activity, especially at a young age. 

“Physical activity or participation in sport should start at prepubertal ages and should be maintained through the pubertal development to obtain the maximal peak bone mass potentially achievable,” said PhD of sports science German Vicente-Rodriguez in the journal Sports Medicine. “High strain-eliciting sports like gymnastics, or participation in weight-bearing physical activities like football or handball, are strongly recommended to increase the peak bone mass.” 

While so many parents are worried about their children breaking bones during sports, playing sports actually strengthens them. Furthermore, another aspect of physical fitness is weight. The childhood obesity crisis, yes crisis, has gotten out of hand. The book, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in Balance, takes a look at the obesity situation in the United States and how rapidly the situation is getting worse.   

“Over the past three decades since the 1970s, the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2 to 5 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6 to 11 years”

– Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in Balance

One can see how this is a severe issue, obesity rates are at their highest while participation in sports keeps dwindling. Parents are worried about their child’s safety on the field when the dangers that face them at home in their room could be far more deadly in the long run. Again, the answer is to not abandon playing sports, but to minimize the risks so parents don’t have to worry for their children when they go to play them.  

These efforts should start from the ground up – literally. The playing surface is one common denominator that affects a multitude of sports and can have lasting impacts on the athletes that utilize the fields.  By designing the playing surface to absorb impacts, remain consistent and firm for running, and perform well in all weather conditions the facilitators of youth sports dramatically reduce the injury risk to the athletes. The ideal system for turf sports is a great natural grass field, but due to the need to make sports fields available to many different teams the maintenance and rest required to achieve a great natural turf field can be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. 

For these reasons, along with regional climate considerations, many people resort to installing artificial turf systems. Key components to artificial turf systems that control the safety and performance aspects are the base and shock pad layer, along with the infill material used in the system.  The old, traditional systems simply rolled out the turf over crushed stone or concrete and relied solely on crumb-rubber infill to provide the impact attenuation for tackles or falls. Modern systems utilize an artificial turf shock pad to provide the impact attenuation for the systems. This takes the pressure off the infill to provide both safety for impacts and a firm, consistent surface for running.  By putting both components in the infill, the old systems were set up for failure.  The performance characteristics run counterintuitively to one another. As you add more rubber infill to a system for impact absorption, the consistency and firmness of the field decreases and vice versa.

By adding high-performance shock pad systems, modern artificial turf fields are also moving away from crumb rubber infill entirely. Organic infills are reducing the dangerously high temperatures of artificial turf sports fields and also creating firmer, faster surfaces.  These innovative solutions are easing the minds of some parents, but coaching techniques and practice protocols also play a big role.

Participation in sports instills life skills that kids learn and are taught while playing, such as social skills, working out differences, responding to mentorship and coaching, and being a team player. Also, the type of setting the sports take place in allows kids to develop and try out different types mental and moral qualities that they have learned from other aspects of life. For example, boosting self-esteem is something all kids need at a young age, it helps build confidence and lets kids express themselves as they truly are. 

“Being part a of a team with similar goals will increase the child’s value of their self. What they contribute to the team – whether it be in leadership positions or in fulfilling important roles – will ultimately contribute to the boost in their self-esteem and their confidence,” according to Samir Becic, author of the book ReSYNC Your Life: 28 Days to a Stronger, Leaner, Smarter, Happier You. 

Learning to work as a team member and to be a friendly competitor, as well as having discipline, are all skills that are required in life, so why not learn them at a young age and in a good setting? Many aspects of life can be found within sports, which is why it is such a good way to learn about the world and a big reason why youth sports came to be in the first place.  

Along with the parents who think sports are too dangerous for their children, are those that think playing sports will interfere with academics. The reality, in fact, is just the opposite. In a study done in the journal Education and Urban Society, researcher Ryan Yeung examined the connection between high school students, athletics, and academic success.  

“In line with the overwhelming preponderance of findings in the literature, participation in high school sports does appear to have beneficial effects on academic achievement, as measured by cognitive test scores,” said Yeung. “These effects are especially eminent in reading, science, and vocabulary.” 

Not only does participating in athletics not hinder academic success, but if children can play at least just one sport, it can increase academic aptitude. Additionally, this study didn’t just focus on testing, it also wanted to see how life skills transferred over to the classroom, especially leadership skills. 

“My results also suggest leadership of athletic teams has great benefits. The gains to athletic leadership are larger than the gains of athletic participation, suggesting leadership has a benefit over and above the benefit of athletic participation,” said Yeung. “While serving as a leader of an athletic team, students may learn valuable teamwork, time management, and organization skills that improve their level of achievement in the classroom.” 

As people continue to shy away from sports because of negative reasons, it’s up to city and community members to remind each other of the positives of athletics. Instead of ditching sports, communities need figure out way to make sports safer so that parents and guardians don’t have to worry in the first place.  

1ST POWERBASE/YSR AND BROCKFILL INSTALLATION IN MISSISSIPPI AT PEARL HS

1ST POWERBASE/YSR AND BROCKFILL INSTALLATION IN MISSISSIPPI AT PEARL HS

The Pearl High School Pirates first home football game will not only be the unveiling of new Brock products to the town, but to all of Mississippi. A few other high schools in Mississippi have installed Brock ShockPad/SERIES, but Pearl will be the first to have Brock PowerBase/YSR and the first to install BrockFILL. This system solves a lot of issues schools and organizations may be facing. Of course concussions and impact injuries are always top of mind, but heat and severe weather were also taken into consideration

Water management has been an issue for years when it comes in artificial turf fields, especially in places like Mississippi where it rains substantially. Artificial turf sports field face two main issues in regards to water. The first being improper drainage where water accumulates on the field and forms puddles, leaving the surface waterlogged and unplayable until the water can be removed from the field. The second issue being the migration of infill, as water accumulates on the surface it carries the infill and places it unevenly on the field, or washes it away completely.

“We get a lot of rain down here and when it rains, it rains heavy. One of my concerns was that the wood infill was just going to wash out like everything else,” said Principal Field Architect, Jamie Wier. “ When I learned that BrockFILL was designed to absorb the water and sink, I thought, ‘I’m sold, I am ready to try this.’ This weekend we received 5 inches of rain. Most fields filled with other products suffer with infill migration with this amount of rain.”

Superintendent of Pearl Public school district, Ray Morgigno, Ph.D., also commented on migration of infills during water weather events.

“We had a pretty good rain yesterday morning and I was actually out at the field last night with the architect and it [BrockFILL] had not moved at all,” said Morgigno. “We were thinking it would all move to the edges but it didn’t, it just weighted down, so that was exciting to see.”

BrockFILL helps solve the infill migration issue, but what about the waterlogging of the field and drainage? This is where Brock PowerBase/YSR comes in. The PowerBase/YSR shock pad system is designed to drain water faster than the turf, so there should be no big buildup of water above the pads, as soon as the water seeps through the artificial turf carpet, it will drain right through the Brock Pads too.

Even with many new fields being installed nationwide this summer, BrockFILL is still a new product and making its way into mainstream infill use. Organizations like Pearl High School and the Wier, Boerner, and Allin architecture firm are jumping on the product at a good time, attempting to be trend setters for the rest of the industry.

“One of the keys to our growth is staying on the cutting edge of building technology and systems, especially when it comes to sports athletic facilities,” said Wier. “We are always looking opportunities to put our clients ahead of the curve. Our success is their success.”

Mississippi, along with getting a lot of rainfall, can get extremely hot. The heat itself is not unbearable, but when it is coupled with an artificial turf field featuring crumb rubber, the temperatures can become dangerously hot.

“The heat was probably one of the leading reasons why we chose Brock fill from the beginning,” said Pearl High Schools Head Football Coach, John Perry. “The field gets so hot in the summertime. The old field with the crumb rubber would get so hot, we had a summer camp here and were worried about the kids burning their feet.”

Beating the heat has been a hot-button issue for the artificial turf industry for years, but as the average world temperature rises it’s becoming even more critical for the industry to adapt and evolve.  This has spurred a release of many crumb-rubber infill alternatives onto the market, but designers are still looking for the option that checks all the boxes in regards to performance, durability, and safety.

“Being in the south, one of the things we really struggle with is heat. Until now, all of the infill products that we have used have not performed like we had hoped. We have been disappointed and our clients have been disappointed. Again, looking for that edge in the marketplace for our clients, when I saw the Brock infill product, I thought to myself, ‘oh man, this is it’. From heat, abrasion, impact, safety, and infill stability, Brock has introduced a system that addresses all of our issues.”

– Principal Field Architect, Jamie Wier – Wier, Boerner, and Allin architecture

BrockFILL, being made of wood, naturally doesn’t retain heat remotely close to what crumb rubber does and in fact, will absorb moisture from the air and retain rainwater to actually cool the field once the sun begins to beat down upon the turf.

Keeping their athletes safe from the heat isn’t the only concern when it comes to safety.  Another top priority is creating a firm forgiving surface for the athletes. With 1-in-5 concussions happening for a player’s head hitting the turf, it’s a major issue when designing these systems.

“One of the big selling points was the reduction in concussions,” said Morgigno. “Especially looking at the research on G-MAX and HIC and learning that the pad not only decreased your chance for concussions, but also for lower extremity injuries due to the stiffness of the pad.”

Architect Jamie Wier added, “He [Coach Perry] was having too many athletes suffering from turf related injuries. The Pearl Pirate Football team were the 2017 state champions. They are a fast and powerful team and they want the Championship again….they are hungry for it. Staying healthy is key for that. The last thing we need is our fields beating us up too.”

Coach Perry and Superintendent Morgigno both feel the community is excited to see the new field once football season kicks off.  The field has only just wrapped up with all the finishing touches after the BrockFILL installation, but the few people who have set foot on the surface seem to be impressed.

“I think they are going to love it, we designed it a little bit differently and I think everybody who has seen it absolutely loved it,” said Perry. “I think our school board and our superintendent put the best product out there that was the safest for our kids. That’s one thing our school district has always tried to do, if you are going to do something, do it right, and I think we did it right.”

The Pearl High School varsity football team will begin a new season at the end of August, looking to improve on last season’s 8-5 record and get back to their 2017 winning ways where they sported a perfect 16-0 record with a state championship to cap it off. Pearl’s first home game of the season will be played on August 30th against Warren Central High School and will be the official unveiling of their new synthetic turf field.

Dartmouth continues embracing Safety Technologies with VR Goggles

Dartmouth continues embracing Safety Technologies with VR Goggles

Dartmouth Football gained notoriety when they implemented robotic tackling dummies instead of tackling each other and was featured in the NFL media campaign, “The Future of Football.” Legendary Head Football Coach, Buddy Teevens, highlighted how coaching is changing, with an increasing eye toward player safety, and how every measure – from safer fields to practice protocols – helps make the game safer.   

Now Coach Teevens is trying to keep his players out of harm’s way by making use of virtual reality goggles. There is absolutely no risk of injury to anyone when using virtual reality goggles and players can take as many reps as they want without feeling fatigue, a great way to master the playbook, according to Teevens.

His philosophy of player safety has been built from the ground up – literally. In 2016, Dartmouth University upgraded their Memorial Field to include a Brock PowerBase/PRO shock pad system for the artificial turf. With his incredible concept of “no Dartmouth player will ever be tackled by another Dartmouth player,” they have led the Ivy League in tackles, won a championship, and “a whole bunch of football games.” 

“We’re far safer now than we were with our old surface,” Teevens said. “Bringing in the new turf, the Brock surface, has been tremendous for us. It’s a little bit more forgiving. It’s going to take a little less impact to one of my players.” 

Teevens received complaints and concerns from his coaching staff about the validity of not tackling. He was asked questions like “how are the players going to learn to hit” and “if they don’t hit other players in practice, they aren’t going to be tough enough in a game.” Teevens understood these concerns, but for him, player safety had to be a top priority. 

“Either we change the way we coach the game,” Teevens said, “or we’re not gonna have a game to coach.” 

In just the first year after imposing the tackling restrictions at Dartmouth practices, the team’s overall injury rate dropped by 80 percent. After the second year, concussions on the team had declined by 58 percent. Clearly, Coach Teevens’ strategy was working. His players were much safer and to top it off, they were enjoying successful seasons too. Since the 2014 season, Big Green has won 76 percent of their games, proving that ditching tackling in practice didn’t translate to ditching wins out on the field.  

While Teevens has faced a bit of backlash for his ideas about changing the game of football, he has a lot of supporters who understand what he is trying to do for the game. One of those supporters is Chris Nowinski, Co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation which works to further research for CTE and concussions.  

Similar to Teevens, Nowinski also has a few big ideas to help fight against head injuries. Instead of getting rid of tackling in practice, Nowinski suggests that all youth football until high school should be no contact, flag football. Decreasing exposure to subconcussive head-to-head hits is the “No. 1 thing we can do to help football players,” said Nowinski.  

Teevens’ ideas, while now fully accepted at Dartmouth, still remain unaccepted among other athletic organizations. Although the Ivy League went along with getting rid of tackling in practice, the league  recently dismissed some of Coach Teevens new suggestions; such as eliminating tackling during spring season or the pre-season and getting rid of kickoffs. These proposals were shut down quickly with the first defeated in a vote of 7 to 1, Teevens being the one, the latter idea didn’t even earn a vote. “I pretty much gave up after that one,” said Teevens. 

At the moment people like Coach Teevens are few and far between, but more people with the foresight to see that change is necessary for football to grow and thrive are speaking up. The NCAA and football leagues at all levels will likely continue adopting safer practices and equipment in the future and the game will adapt to meet the findings of new research. 

Dartmouth will face their first opponent of the season, Jacksonville University, on September 21st, at 11 a.m EST.  

Road to the World Series Starts on Brock Shock Pads

Road to the World Series Starts on Brock Shock Pads

The FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is the home of the 2019 pennant winners, Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, spring training programs. The 160-acre complex features a fan-friendly 7,700 capacity stadium as its centerpiece, along with 6 practice fields per team. Each team has two major-league-size practice fields, four minor-league-size practice fields, an agility field, a half field, batting cages, and pitching mounds. The agility fields, both feature Brock shock pads.

While all the spring training games themselves happen in the main stadium, both teams do a majority of their workouts on the agility fields.

The major reason why shock pads are being used in these fields is because agility fields are where the baseball players exercise. They have some pretty strenuous exercise routines that players go through and there is always potential for a bad fall, according to artificial turf field designers.

“If you a build an agility field with a Brock shock pad, you will have less wear and tear on your joints and lower extremities,” Pascale said. “So, as you get into the grueling baseball season, the teams that are able to do their conditioning on a field that’s going to take care of their body a little bit better, I think it leads to them being able to better play an entire season without having to really worry about accumulations of impacts leading to injuries.”

It seems as though the pads did their trick as the two teams utilizing the fields featuring Brock shock pads turned out to have the longest seasons. Of course, the addition of Brock shock pads to the agility fields may not have changed the tide of the season and made these two teams better than all the rest. However, it is a happy coincidence that the two teams that train at this complex are in the World Series, and who knows, maybe the lack of lower extremity stress early in the season did give these teams the boost they needed to go all the way.

Having pads under the agility fields is great, but it is also only step one of involving shock pad technology into the game of baseball. Each year, more baseball organizations begin to consider what shock pads could do for their team.

“I think the baseball market is the fastest growing market in the turf industry right now,” Pascale said. “The combination of being able to build a field that you can play on 24/7 no matter what the weather, along without having to deal with an insane amount of maintenance, makes it a pretty important market.”

On top of just safety, shock pads play a significant role in field performance as well. Aspects such as cleat grip, field speed, and most importantly ball bounce are often the things most discussed when thinking about installing a shock pad.

In the future there will be a real need for shock pads in baseball fields, according to industry experts. The research is coming out right now that a lot of the synthetic fields being built at the highest levels are starting to want to incorporate the pad simply because of the way the ball bounces.

Pascale added, “Having a Brock shock pad under the turf for baseball will help replicate a more natural ball bounce and ball roll. It’s not a rubbery pad so you won’t get that springy/bouncy effect and will get a more deadening effect like we see with natural grass.”

Perhaps after this season other professional teams will follow the Nationals and Astros success by installing a shock pad system of their own. In the meantime, both teams still have a big task ahead of them, winning the 2019 World Series. The Astros take a 3-2 series lead with them back to Houston for game 6 on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 6:07 p.m. MST.

Artificial Turf & The War on Microplastics: A Call To Action

Artificial Turf & The War on Microplastics: A Call To Action

Alongside global climate change, plastic pollution has surged into our popular consciousness as one of the most significant environmental issues of our time. Bags and bottles are laying waste to some of the world’s most cherished beaches, reefs, and riverways; while microplastics threaten the health of people and animals around the world. A political backlash and regulatory response is accelerating, touching a range of industries, from packaging (plastic bag bans) to personal care (the US microbead ban) to our own industry of artificial turf.

Our fast-twitch reflex, as in any industry, is to defend our turf, crying out like a fallen FIFA player about the cost of regulation and preventing change. But we have another play in our book. We can use this moment to get creative, innovating toward play surfaces that are high performance, safe, and sustainable. Great alternatives to crumb rubber microplastics already exist, but we can only accelerate their adoption and further improvement by joining forces as manufacturers, architects, customers, and communities with a vision for a better industry and a better world.

Changing expectations and regulation

First, some context. Artificial turf fields use plastic throughout our systems, but the next major collision between the turf industry and this emerging regulatory trend will occur over the crumb rubber infill in our fields. Westport, Connecticut’s legislative body passed a ban on crumb rubber as an artificial turf infill, based on concerns about children’s health. The City of San Francisco Recreation and Parks department has banned crumb rubber infill, and others will follow suit. Furthermore, crumb rubber is classifiable as a microplastic, defined by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as “small plastic pieces less than 5mm long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.” Based on this range of health and environmental concerns, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) proposed to the European Commission an immediate ban of rubber infill as of 2022. If the proposal is adopted, as of 2022 no rubber infill could be used on synthetic turf pitches within the EU and the use of such artificial pitches will be prohibited (if they are not converted with an alternative infill material).

Further attention, research, and regulation on microplastics will only point more people in our direction because of the link between car tires and crumb rubber. The BBC, as well as an Assessment Report on Microplastics conducted by the North Carolina Coastal Federation, have found that waste from tires is a significant contributor to ocean plastics. Through normal tire wear, one car tire can shed up to 20 grams of plastic dust every 100 kilometers. Now consider that crumb rubber infill means grinding up tires into tiny particles and spreading them out over acres of land for people to kick around. Instructions from artificial turf manufacturers tell clients to add rubber to their field over time, as it breaks down and migrates off site in players shoes, bags and due to weather events. Although tires are made from natural rubber about 60% of each one is comprised of synthetic polymers such as Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR). SBR is now classified a microplastic and is ending up in our waterways and our food. The migration of these plastic particles was part and parcel to the ECHA classifying them as microplastics.

“Clients are thinking about the next 8-10 years of their field and wondering if they are building something that will become obsolete before the end of its usable life because of these regulations.”

 
The choice we face

As an industry we now face a choice between a defensive and an offensive strategy. Most in the industry have begun building a fortress to defend the use of these microparticles in artificial turf. UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations has asked for their members to submit positioning papers defending the use of crumb rubber based on the economic impact a ban would have on existing and future turf fields. If successful, this defensive effort will mount powerful lobbying efforts that seek to preserve the status quo and continue the use of crumb rubber. After all, change can be expensive. And it can be terrifying to companies that have invested in materials, processes and marketing stories that are negatively affected by change.

There is another way. Crisis like this can drive innovation among those who see opportunity, not defeat. As George Bernard Shaw said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” We as an industry MUST ask ourselves this same question. There MUST be a way to design an artificial turf playing surface that is cost effective for owners, has the playing qualities athletes want, and leaves little to no environmental footprint. After all, we are a species that has sent man to space, rovers to mars, and put a buildings worth of computing power in the palm of your hand. And artificial turf is not rocket science.

With the money behind our industry organizations, we can ask for and fund the development of alternatives, rather than denying our responsibility.

Technological options

What are the alternatives to crumb rubber infill? One possible avenue is to substitute industrial plastics with a class of materials called bioplastics. A 2013 Study of “Bio-plastics As Green & Sustainable Alternative to Plastics” published by the International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering showed how industries have options to industrial plastics. “Bio-plastics are a form of plastics derived from plant sources such as sweet potatoes, soya bean oil, sugarcane, hemp oil, and cornstarch. These polymers are naturally degraded by the action of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae. Bio-plastics can help alleviate the energy crisis as well as reduce the dependence on fossil fuels of our society. They have some remarkable properties which make it suitable for different applications.”

We have to bring a critical eye to these claims, however. While bioplastics are generally considered to be more eco-friendly than traditional plastics, a 2010 study from the University of Pittsburgh found that wasn’t necessarily true when the materials’ life cycles were taken into consideration. The study compared seven traditional plastics, four bioplastics and one made from both fossil fuel and renewable sources. The researchers determined that bioplastics production resulted in greater amounts of pollutants, due to the fertilizers and pesticides used in growing the crops and the chemical processing needed to turn organic material into plastic. The bioplastics also contributed more to ozone depletion than the traditional plastics, and required extensive land use. So the jury is still out on whether bioplastics are the solution, and even if they are, it will take years and the right motivations to engineer a material that is appropriate for artificial turf.

Our other option may be to turn to mother nature. There are organic materials that are abundant and provide a sustainable, renewable natural resource that can replace crumb rubber. The United States is home to the largest sustainable forestry industry in the world. We grow and farm trees that are then used to make fuel pellets to replace coal as the fuel source for power plants in Europe. The areas that grow trees as the raw material source are now growing more trees than they are harvesting, despite the growth in the use of biofuels. An organic material to replace SBR is a logical place to start, and a wood product specifically engineered as an infill is now available and at a cost not much more than SBR. Early tests suggest that many people who play on fields with an organic infill actually prefer them over a rubber filled field.

Here we see a different set of challenges – complaints of durability, maintenance, cost, and capacity have been barriers that have prevented these natural materials from replacing SBR.
In the near term, we may have to change our expectations of what an artificial field will cost and what it will take to manage, as we shift away from our addiction to plastics. In the medium term, however, organic infill can meet these challenges.

Allies across the industry

To drive this innovation, it will take collaboration across the value chain. Fortunately, although we are talking about the plastics industry, many of these fields are designed by people who respect and honor the environment. We are speaking of the landscape architect. Sustainability has been part of the American Society of Landscape Architects mission since its founding and is an overarching value that informs all of the Society’s programs and operations. These stewards of our environment can be the driving force behind change through the specifications they write for future fields. But t it will take a community of purchasers that are willing to spend a little more and establish a new standard before the rest of the late adopters follow suit.

As a related example, the Performance Shock Pad market, a safety layer that goes under artificial turf, has only recently captured the early majority after over a decade in the U.S. market. But those who have adopted this more progressive way of thinking are now in a position to use infills that are not made of rubber because they have shock absorption already integrated into the system. And some shock pads are completely recyclable and have usable life spans of decades. These are the type of forward thinkers that will drive the change to a more sustainable sports surface. These systems are not the cheapest, but are proven to offer a superior playing surface.

It IS possible with today’s technologies to chart a new course in the artificial turf industry that reduces our environmental footprint, leaves the microplastics stigma in our past, and evolves beyond the ticking time bomb of today’s turf use and disposal into a surface we can celebrate for its performance AND its environmental harmony. The most sophisticated artificial turf sports surfaces today address both the in-use performance requirements and an end-of-life solution that avoids dumping and waste. These systems use a combination of a long-life shock pad that is re-used when the turf is replaced, and durable natural materials that provide more stable footing and a cooler surface temperature that are not microplastics. The last remaining component that needs a solution is the turf itself. But as the science and realities of climate change continue to slap us in the face, a solution must exist. We just need to go find it.

The Artificial Turf Debate: Why do Athletes prefer natural grass?
But What About Helmets?
NEW TURF, SAME SHOCK PAD: 1ST REPLACEMENT OVER SHOCKPAD/SERIES
Virginia Soccer Association Plans Renovation with Brock USA
A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 1
A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 2
Olympic Park Selects Brock USA for artificial Turf field Safety & Playability
MLB’s Legacy program comes full circle With Community Fields in Cleveland
Reusing & Value Engineering Shock Pads
Boise State replaces iconic blue turf field for the Second time over Brock
Kenan Stadium Caps off 5-Year Field Safety Initiative at UNC
Avoiding Sports Because Of Fear Could Be Worse For America’s Youth
1ST POWERBASE/YSR AND BROCKFILL INSTALLATION IN MISSISSIPPI AT PEARL HS
Dartmouth continues embracing Safety Technologies with VR Goggles
Road to the World Series Starts on Brock Shock Pads
Artificial Turf & The War on Microplastics: A Call To Action
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The Artificial Turf Debate: Why do Athletes prefer natural grass?

The Artificial Turf Debate: Why do Athletes prefer natural grass?

Studies have shown most athletes prefer playing on quality natural grass fields. The most notable and public disdain for artificial turf comes from the US Women’s National Soccer Team. Shortly after their victory in the 2015 World Cup, the team cancelled a match at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii due to large rips and holes in the field. Fast forward to today, and the announcement that the 2019 and 2022 Women’s World Cups would only be hosted exclusively on natural grass fields was celebrated by many players and fans alike. 

Their aversion to competing on artificial turf has only been reinforced by a recent study released in the the American Journal of Sports Medicine that found playing on artificial turf made an athlete 3x more likely to suffer a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).  The study leveraged 10 years of data on college football injuries from the NCAA Injury Surveillance System, which collects information from Division I, II, and III athletic programs. That data set included over 3 million athlete exposures—times when an athlete participated in a practice or game—and 2,460 knee injuries, making it one of the most robust data samplings to date for comparing natural grass to artificial turf. The study did only focus on football, but it joins a number of other studies that reinforce the reasons why athletes prefer natural grass fields.

“Artificial turf is an important risk factor for specific knee ligament injuries in NCAA football. Injury rates for PCL tears were significantly increased during competitions played on artificial turf as compared with natural grass. Lower NCAA divisions (I and II) also showed higher rates of ACL injuries during the competitions on artificial turf vs. natural grass.”

– AJSM Study

But what if artificial turf was as forgiving, firm, fast, and had similar ball bounce and play as a great natural grass field? What factors go into recreating a great natural surface? If an artificial turf system were created that mimicked natural grass in almost every way, would the athletes come around to embracing artificial turf?

Let’s explore how this can be achieved!

Creating That “Natural Grass” Feel

Many factors go into why natural grass is such an ideal surface for athletes to compete. They range from how athletes’ cleats grip into the rootzone, to how the grass stays cool on hot days, to how it absorbs the impact for falls and dives, and many others.  Some of the key areas were measured in a study by the University of Tennessee that helped the industry establish performance benchmarks to strive towards in artificial turf systems.

Firmness For Running
Athletes want a firm, fast surface, but this has been hard to replicate with crumb rubber because of its innate, bouncy/spongy characteristics. Vertical deformation is how much the field is deformed when run upon, and is generally the “softness under foot” test. These measurements are important because if a surface is too soft an athlete risks ankle, knee, and other joint and soft-tissue injuries. If the surface is too hard we run into the issues like concussions or impact injuries. Brock systems are stiff panels, shown by their ability to spread the running load out over a much greater area, so they provide a firm platform for the field. But the top surface “pistons” are engineered to allow for the right amount of deformation during running.

Ball-to-Surface Interaction 
In a game like soccer, the interaction between the surface and the ball is extremely important. Traditional synthetic fields with crumb rubber infill can change the way a ball bounces and spins when it contacts the turf. This can be frustrating for athletes if the ball reacts in an unexpected way. In the video below, notice how the ball spin changes direction when it impacts crumb rubber, but remains the same when it impacts natural grass.

Ball-to-Surface Interaction 
In a game like soccer, the interaction between the surface and the ball is extremely important. Traditional synthetic fields with crumb rubber infill can change the way a ball bounces and spins when it contacts the turf. This can be frustrating for athletes if the ball reacts in an unexpected way. In the video below, notice how the ball spin changes direction when it impacts crumb rubber, but remains the same when it impacts natural grass.
 Ball-Bounce-Video_1

Unlike crumb rubber, certain organic infills are able to more closely reproduce the ball bounce of a pristine natural grass surface. BrockFILL, shown below, is a wood infill particle specifically engineered to create a more natural feeling surface. Notice how the ball rotation remains the same after impacting the BrockFILL field, much like the natural grass field. 

Ball-Bounce-Video

When comparing crumb rubber and organic infills, another important characteristic is infill splash. Infill splash occurs when the ball strikes the surface and displaces infill particles. Overtime, this can cause an uneven playing surface especially in areas of high traffic like the 18-yard box. With a resilient infill, like crumb rubber, this splash is very noticeable. In a non-resilient infill, like BrockFILL, the splash is minimized. The video below shows the difference.

Ball-Bounce-Video_2

 

Temperature and Odor 
Crumb rubber, the small black particles you see in an artificial turf, is the most common infill and can cause the field to quickly reach unsafe temperatures of 175+ degrees Fahrenheit. This puts athletes at risk for burns, blisters, and heat exhaustion. One of the most noticeable benefits of using an organic infill is the reduced temperature of the playing surface. BrockFill fields are approximately 20 degrees cooler when dry, and 40 degrees cooler when irrigated. 

The BrockFill particles are naturally hydrophilic, so they absorb water and moisture in the air. It is slowly released from the core of the particle, allowing for extended cooling. Replacing crumb rubber with an organic infill also gets rid of the harsh rubber smell associated with the rubber particles, especially in high temperatures. 

Abrasion
One of the most frequent complaints about artificial turf, especially from soccer players, is turf burn or skin abrasions from sliding on the surface. Independent testing from Labosport measures heat generated as a device slides across the turf sample using a mass and speed representative of a sliding athlete. BrockFILL generated the lowest heat score, therefore the lowest abrasion, of any infill, even crumb rubber. Better yet, abrasion is even lower when BrockFILL is damp.

Head Injuries
The “Head Injury Criterion” Test, or HIC Test is the internationally recognized measure for the likelihood of head injury. The HIC impact test uses a Triax 2010 device that allows you to measure the force of a human head when it strikes a playing surface. By following the protocol established by the American Standard for Testing Materials for the F355-16 E-Missile we are able to determine the probability and severity of a head injury. The HIC Impact Test drops a 9.9 lb. hemisphere projectile (curved like a human head) from from increasing heights and measures the impact. The higher the Critical Fall Height, the better the surface. Good quality natural turf will produce a minimum Critical Fall Height of 1.7 Meters. Brock Shock Pads were engineered to perform more like natural grass fields than traditional turf over stone. 

Artificial turf systems have come a long way since their initial creation in the 1960s. New materials and methods allow synthetic surfaces to behave more like pristine natural grass fields, which are highly desired by athletes. This new generation of artificial turf is able to provide all of the benefits of a synthetic surface, while mimicking the best characteristics of a natural field to give players the best experience possible. 

But What About Helmets?

But What About Helmets?

Injuries will always be a part of athletics, but it is up to both the companies creating the safety products and the institutions using these products to make sure the athletes involved are properly protected. Riddell, the leading manufacturer of football helmets, is being sued over allegedly manufacturing helmets that do not protect against concussions. As technology improves, companies must innovate to create safer products to reduce the risk of injury for their clients and avoid liability. Take for example how Brock USA has continually improved its design for shock pads.   

The original PerformanceBase shock pad line from Brock USA was engineered to reduce Gmax,  (the hardness of the field), but in 2004 the industry was not talking about Head Injury Criteria (HIC), nor did we know as much about brain injuries then as we do now. As our knowledge increased, that product line evolved into PowerBase/PRO and PowerBase/YSR; which improved impact attenuation for head impacts, and was also tuned for the impacts of different sized athletes.  The original PerformanceBase still outperforms any of the non-Brock shock pads on market, but the Brock engineers weren’t comfortable kicking back and considering the original design sufficient.

Universities, school districts, municipalities and private institutions can only do so much and are at the mercy of what the market offers 

In the court case of Darren Hamblin, he believes the market – specifically Riddell Helmets – did not rise to the challenge. In 2016, Darren lost his son Cody Hamblin to a seizure and subsequent drowning and the autopsy revealed that Cody had CTE. Darren Hamblin is suing Riddell under the claims that their helmets are the reason for the CTE and the untimely death of his son. 

“We actually did a lot of research and talked to some doctors and felt like it would be very safe with all the equipment and protection that the children were wearing — helmets and all that,” said Darren Hamblin in an interview with Good Morning America.  

Riddell is one of the leading football helmet companies in the US. But like so many companies that pioneer an idea, they grow large and become entrapped in their own original philosophy. They begin to operate from the idea, “We can’t innovate because that would send a message that our older products are not safe.”  Imagine if the automobile industry didn’t want to put airbags into cars for the same reason.

This idea may sound absurd, but it occurs in the artificial turf industry as well.  The leading turf manufacturer, for example, continues to fight improvements in safety standards and deny shock pads make fields safer. They have promoted and established their original message for so long, that any shift would make them appear wrong, not to mention cost a fortune in rebranding. They are concerned (and so are other turf companies) that if we make fields safer and they  cost a little more, no one will purchase them and their market will shrink.

Again, a philosophy that has been proven wrong on so many occasions.  Motorola was the leading phone company until Apple thought it could make something better and charge twice the price.   America is a country that always demands better, and one that is populated with innovators and the wealth to make ideas happen. Americans never sit still. This is why new entrepreneurs and companies are challenging the status quo.

On the helmet side, Dr. Robert Knight, A Neurologist from The University of California Berkeley, started his own helmet company and created a new design. “The basic principle is to have your head protected by having the exterior part of the helmet actually slide and move,” said Knight. “It’s connected to an interior shell by struts, and when it slides and moves, the energy gets dissipated by the struts. It’s similar to what they do on a suspension bridge to try to diminish energy.”  

Knight’s technology is very new and still far out from mass production and sale. Knight’s company will continue testing, but could be in production sooner rather than later. 

Another company that is leading the field in helmet technology is Vicis Helmets. For three years in a row they have partnered with the NFL and conducted lab testing at a different independent lab each year. When testing for head impact severity, Vicis had the top ranked helmets according to the three different laboratories over three different years.

All markets evolve through innovative new thinking, and sports safety is no exception. Vicis, Brain Guard, and Brock USA, although not the oldest, nor the largest, are all companies that have adopted new/upgraded technologies to make sports safer for all athletes. 

NEW TURF, SAME SHOCK PAD: 1ST REPLACEMENT OVER SHOCKPAD/SERIES

NEW TURF, SAME SHOCK PAD: 1ST REPLACEMENT OVER SHOCKPAD/SERIES

After seven years of festivals, events, youth programs, and of course, seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the surface that handled all that weight and traffic will be replaced. While the turf must be replaced at Highmark Stadium due to wear and tear, the design of Brock’s ShockPad/14 enables it to withstand the wear and tear of years of play and the panels are being reused for the next turf cycle.

Brock has had other turf replacements over PowerBase, but this is the first time for the ShockPad/SERIES. The whole process is fairly simple, both the turf and the panels are removed followed by an inspection of the ground beneath the panels to make sure it is still in good condition. Next, the panels are reinstalled as they were before and a new turf layer is placed on top.  

“It’s not a hard product to take up and put down, I think that the ease of installation is definitely a plus. The comfort and level of support it provides for the players is huge and overall we are real happy with the product.”

– Kevin Johnston, General Manager – Pittsburgh Riverhounds
This process of reusing the same panels is not only easy when it comes to reinstallation, but the panels are more resilient than just turf over stone and far more cost-effective in the long run.

“The other high-end turf pro fields in the U.S. are all being torn out every two years, and those are on stone,” said the Director of Soccer at AstroTurf, Carl Capellas. “It’s just not realistic for anybody.”

Capellas makes a valid point, why cash out on a new field every two years when you can invest in a quality product now and easily have 7+ years of great field life. Many professional sports teams have enough money to get a new field every two years, but it’s a massive waste of time and resources. It’s much easier and cheaper in the end to install a quality shock pad that will last for many years to come, as the Riverhounds are finding out.

Furthermore, the quality of the pad has maintained all these years, being both absorbent enough for hard impacts and helping reduce injury risk, while also being firm enough to provide quality ball bounce and good footing for cuts and running. Even after seven years, the difference between padded turf and normal turf over stone is clear.

“We are building a [sports] complex about ten miles from the city and we are doing ten fields out there,” said Kevin Johnston. “Those ten fields, we’re not doing any padding on and you can definitely tell the difference between the two (where the Riverhounds play and this new sports complex).”

Another positive that comes along with Brock’s ShockPad/14, is the durability. While the field has lasted for seven seasons worth of soccer, in reality it’s lasted far longer because soccer matches haven’t been the only event taking place at this field.

“I have had concerts and festivals with heavy foot traffic and all kinds of stuff, and surprisingly that padding held up phenomenally over seven years,” Johnston said. “Well enough that obviously we can put it back down and be able to continue using it.”

The first reinstallation of Brock’s ShockPad/14 proved to be just as simple as it was when it was first installed seven years ago. On top of that, everyone involved in the project was pleased to see how durable the panels actually were, especially the front office of the Riverhounds who now don’t have to pay nearly as much to get their pitch back to pristine condition, according to Johnston.

Virginia Soccer Association Plans Renovation with Brock USA

Virginia Soccer Association Plans Renovation with Brock USA

“Matt Lacey and the board members of VSA should be commended for the amount of time and effort they spent educating themselves about the new and different options available. By selecting Brock ShockPad/17 and BrockFill, they are not only showing their commitment to providing the safest and most environmentally friendly fields they can for their members, but are also paving the way for others in the area by pioneering the next generation of synthetic turf soccer fields. Brock USA is beyond thrilled to be working with this forward thinking club and can’t wait to see kids enjoying these new fields at Long Park for years to come.t”

– Ronnie Pascale, East Region Vice President, Brock USA

The Virginia Soccer Association (VSA) Board of Directors and staff announced Monday that the three turf fields at James Long Park will get a state-of-the-art renovation that delivers unparalleled player safety, extraordinary durability and minimal environmental impact.

As the James Long Park turf fields were near the end of their lifespan, the need for field improvements was paramount.  The VSA Board of Directors and staff completed nearly two years of research to satisfy the club’s requirements for player safety and team performance.

 “We underwent an extensive evaluation of the turf products in the marketplace to find the best for our athletes and our club,” said Michael Bachman, president, VSA Board of Directors. “What we are getting is an elite level turf system that will significantly benefit our players for years to come.”

Core Contractors, LLC (Core) located in Woodbridge, VA has been selected to manage the $1.6 million installation of Shaw Sports Legion Turf and Brock USA state-of-the-art BrockFILL® and ShockPad system.  With more than 20 years athletic field construction experience in the DC Metropolitan area, Core will provide ongoing service of the fields to ensure that ball playability and athlete performance are maintained.

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 1

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 1

An in-depth look at the current testing method used to measure rotational resistance and traction, and how IT is failing to provide realistic simulations of athlete-to-surface interaction.

Stability, consistency, and adequate traction with appropriate cleat release are key characteristics of a playing surface that offers both safety and performance for the athlete. When an athlete plants a foot, pivots, jumps, lands, or runs, the characteristics of the playing surface upon which the movements are performed can influence the likelihood of a lower extremity injury, such as ankle sprains, ACL or PCL tears, and other soft tissue damage.

Recently published studies that analyzed NFL and NCAA football injury data over multiple seasons found higher rates of lower extremity injuries on artificial turf than on natural grass surfaces. Although natural turf remains the preferred surface for the vast majority of athletes, not all facilities can maintain a quality natural grass surface, especially when field usage is high. Thus, artificial turf has proliferated due to its ability to accommodate heavy usage, even when subjected to adverse weather and climatic conditions, and its reduced need for water, among other factors.

Resistance to the rotation of a cleated foot is a measure used to characterize how a surface will respond when an athlete plants a foot and pivots. Too much resistance to rotation can cause the foot to become “fixed” to the surface, allowing potentially injurious forces to be transmitted to connective tissue in the foot, ankle, and knee. This type of twisting motion is a common cause of lower extremity injuries. Too little resistance can cause the athlete to lose footing, causing slippage and limiting performance on the field. A good artificial turf surface, when coupled with the right footwear, should ideally provide enough traction to prevent the athlete from slipping, but not so much as to increase injury risk beyond that of a high-quality natural turf surface.

The test and equipment most commonly used to assess rotational resistance in sports turf have been standardized in BS EN 15301-1. A predecessor to the current device was originally developed in the 1970s for assessing traction on natural turf (originally, this was referred to as the “shear strength” of the turf/rootzone).

The current test involves the operator dropping a test foot – a 46 kg cleated metal disc – onto the surface from a height of 60 mm and then using a two-handled torque wrench attached to the top of the device to manually rotate the test foot through at least 45 degrees of rotation at a prescribed speed (12 rpm, or 72 degrees/second) without applying any additional downward force. The test foot is 150 mm in diameter and has six 13 mm plastic cleats located 46 mm from the center of the test foot and equally spaced in a circular pattern. Typically, five measurements are taken, and the average of the peak torques generated during each test is reported as the rotational resistance for the surface. The device has been referred to variously as the “torque wrench tester,” “rotational resistance tester”, “studded boot apparatus,” and “studded disc apparatus.

This test has been criticized for many reasons. First, it does not simulate a realistic athlete-to-surface interaction, as the loads and speeds associated with the test are not equivalent to the higher forces and speeds of a real athlete. Additionally, the cleat pattern on the test foot does not mimic that of an actual cleat an athlete would use. A critical review of sports surface assessment tests authored by Nigg nearly 30 years ago recognized and recommended that traction testing (both rotational and linear) should be done using forces that mimic the actual forces between the athlete and the surface, as “tests performed with smaller forces may lead to erroneous conclusions.” It was also noted that “tests with standardized test feet are not expected to provide relevant information with respect to actual shoe-surface combinations.”

Studies evaluating the manual torque wrench test have also found relatively poor reproducibility between operators, which likely stems from the fact that the rotational speed must be controlled by the operator (and is almost never measured for verification purposes), and because any additional downward force applied by the operator can introduce error (it will typically increase the measured torque). In a study using an instrumented version of the device that could measure torque as a function of rotation angle throughout the entire test, it was found that the peak torque, which is the only value reported for this test, was reached at roughly 40 degrees of rotation (on average), which is likely much greater than the actual rotation of the foot during athletic movements. This study and others have also suggested that metrics other than peak torque, such as the rotational stiffness (the slope of the torque vs. rotation angle curve shortly after rotation begins but well before peak torque is achieved), may be more useful in understanding player-surface interaction and injury risk.

Although more sophisticated traction testing devices exist, they are not practical for daily transport and use. Since testing often needs to be conducted on actual fields, the portability of the equipment is important. While the current device is smaller and more portable than the larger biofidelic test devices, it still weighs over 100 lb and is cumbersome to operate and maneuver.

A lighter-weight device is currently being developed. It is designed to give the same results as the current rotational resistance test but uses the operator’s body weight to compress a calibrated spring and apply the 46 kg vertical load. It will improve portability and ease of use, but the same criticisms and shortcomings of the current device will still apply.

For lack of a better test, FIFA and other organizations have adopted the use of the BS EN 15301-1 “torque wrench test” to assess rotational resistance in artificial turf surfaces. The current acceptable range for rotational resistance tests on installed fields is 25-50 N·m (for the “FIFA Quality” designation, and the multi-sport consensus “OneTurf Concept” endorsed by FIFA, World Rugby, the Synthetic Turf Council, and others).

Considering the most recent evidence from NFL and NCAA data indicating that lower extremity injuries are more frequent and severe on artificial turf with sand/rubber infill than on natural turf, and that most or all of the artificial turf fields that were part of these studies would likely fall within the 25-50 N·m range when tested with the torque wrench tester, it begs the question, “what this test is really telling us about player-surface interaction and injury risk?”

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 2

A Discussion of Rotational Resistance & Traction in Artificial Turf: Part 2

Improved Methods for Measuring Rotational Resistance in Artificial and Natural Grass Playing Surfaces.

A number of sophisticated devices have been developed to measure rotational resistance and traction for artificial and natural grass playing surfaces.  These devices more closely mimic the forces and speeds typical of real athletes and can be used with actual athletic footwear, making them much better tools for studying and understanding player-surface interaction than the current rotational resistance device.

In a study comparing one such device, the PENNFOOT apparatus developed at Penn St. University, to the torque wrench tester on natural turf systems, the correlation between results from the two devices was poor. Though an improvement over earlier traction testing devices, the developers of PENNFOOT state that it “was not designed to simulate actual human foot movements,” as the cast aluminum foot is completely rigid and the types of foot motion are limited. Another device, called the BEAST (BioCore Elite Athlete Shoe-Surface Tester), was developed by Dr. Richard Kent, a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia who works closely with the NFL on athlete safety issues. Using this device outfitted with a “general purpose” cleat pattern, professional football fields (game fields and practice fields) were tested for resistance to rotation.

The natural grass fields produced peak rotational torque values ranging from roughly 130 to 160 N·m (average of 145 N·m). Artificial turf surfaces with sand/rubber infill had an average peak torque of 197 N·m, which was essentially the maximum value the device was able to produce during the test. Roughly 80% of the synthetic surfaces tested did not “release” during rotation like the natural turf, which can divot or tear and thereby limit the forces experienced by the athlete’s lower body.

One criticism of this device is that, like the PENNFOOT apparatus, the test foot is rigid and does not move like a human foot in an athletic shoe. The most recent development in traction testing is the FLEX tester at the University of Tennessee Center for Athletic Field Safety. It can measure linear and rotational traction in natural and synthetic surfaces. Force plate data collected from real athletes by researchers in the University of Tennessee Department of Biomechanics were used to determine realistic operating parameters for the device.

FLEX tester at the University of Tennessee Center for Athletic Field Safety

Unlike the torque wrench test, the FLEX tester is able to simulate the forces and speeds of an athlete planting a foot and then rotating it. An anthropomorphic foot allows for actual athletic cleats to be tested in order to identify optimal footwear for a given surface. This device can be used to perform simulated athletic movements in order to gain a better understanding of the forces and torques experienced by the athlete’s body and to better predict whether or not a given shoe-surface combination will be safe for athletes.

In the process of developing BrockFILL™, the Brock team wanted to use the best available equipment to understand the rotational traction characteristics of synthetic turf systems that use BrockFILL as the performance infill layer. The rotational resistance of an artificial turf plot infilled with sand and BrockFILL was determined using the FLEX tester at the University of Tennessee.

Its performance was benchmarked against the rotational torques generated when testing high-quality natural sports turf and a conventional artificial turf system infilled with crumb rubber and sand. The results showed that the peak torque in the BrockFILL turf system was between that of a high-quality Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass field. The same artificial turf, when tested with crumb rubber and sand infill, showed roughly 40% higher resistance to rotation than the BrockFILL system.

These results, using one of the most sophisticated and realistic traction testing devices available, show that the BrockFILL system can achieve performance on par with that of high-quality natural sports turf. They also support the previous findings of Kent and others that sand/rubber turf systems have higher rotational resistance than natural turf, which may help provide a mechanistic explanation for the results from recent studies of NFL and NCAA injury data that showed higher rates of lower-extremity injury on artificial turf systems.

With its ongoing support of university and independent laboratory research as well as its development of breakthrough turf products like BrockFILL, Brock continues to lead the artificial turf industry in the quest for athlete safety and performance.

Olympic Park Selects Brock USA for artificial Turf field Safety & Playability

Olympic Park Selects Brock USA for artificial Turf field Safety & Playability

Schaumburg, ILOlympic Park is a 72-acre site boasting over 550,555 sq. ft. of synthetic turf for soccer. Since the park opened in 1995, it has hosted thousands of matches which led them to choose synthetic turf with a shock pad as the safest playing surface to handle all of the foot traffic from local athletic events and regional tournaments, according to Todd King, Superintendent of Parks and Planning for Schaumburg Park District.

Brock USA, the nationwide leader in engineered shock pads, partnered with synthetic turf giant, FieldTurf, to install three fields in 2018 and are replacing three more fields for completion this summer. The fields all feature Brock’s ShockPad/14 system made from polypropylene which allows the synthetic field to play more like a natural grass field in terms of safety – by helping to reduce the risk of head and lower extremity injuries, provide more natural ball bounce, and better cleat-to-turf interaction for the athlete.

“I’m a big fan of the new fields with the shock pad because the ball hugs the floor better and there are no unnatural hops. It just plays better. If it extends the life the of the field, then that is a big plus for organizations, especially when you consider the added safety value.”

– Tony Kees, U15-U19 Sockers FC Chicago Academy Coach, USSF National A licensed

Olympic Park’s highest profile tenant is Sockers FC Chicago, one of the most successful US Soccer Development Academies in the country, and was the home to many male and female professional players like Michael Bradley, Jay DeMerit, Katie Naughton, and Jonathan Spector.

King says, “Our participants have noted that the fields feel similar to real grass fields.” He chose to use a shock pad because “it offers a consistent, safe surface for our new fields.” Another perk for Olympic Park in choosing a ShockPad/14 system is the durability it offers. The pad has a warranty guaranteeing at least 16 years, which is about two life cycles of turf.

FieldTurf installed their Vertex Prime turf comprised of specially designed slit-film fibers and high performance rigid monofilament fibers. The fibrillation process of the slit-film component allows for proper infill encapsulation while the monofilament fibers facilitate grass-like ball roll. Both fibers are tufted together in the same stitch for a superior aesthetic appearance. They included an organic infill called PureSelect made from three materials: sand, olive cores, and an extruded composite (EC) topdressing called CoolPlay. Together it is environmentally friendly, locally sourced, and helps to reduce heat on the field. This turf system added with the Brock artificial turf shock pad, will provide peace of mind and great playability for years to come at Olympic Park.

MLB’s Legacy program comes full circle With Community Fields in Cleveland

MLB’s Legacy program comes full circle With Community Fields in Cleveland

In 1997, baseballs Midsummer Classic came to the city of Cleveland and with it came a new tradition that remains today. Each year since, Major League Baseball, through the All-Star Legacy initiative program, couples with a host city’s team to give back to their community. This year that program comes full circle, MLB and Cleveland Indians will give $5 Million back to the community for several enrichment programs/projects.  

“With the Legacy Project for the All-Star game, they [Major League Baseball] are making a gift,” said Cleveland Indians Director of Community, Rebecca Kodysh. “So, it’s not just coming here and hosting the All-Star game and home run derby, MLB also makes a significant gift to leave a legacy to the city.”   

Two of the projects are outdoor parks and both are field renovations. One of the fields being renovated is at Luke Easter Park and will now be called All-Star Field. The other field being renovated is Talty Field at Cleveland Metroparks Brookside Reservation. Both fields will include turf installs, but only the field at Luke Easter Park will include ShockPad/14, according to Kodysh. 

Part of the reason for using turf is because MLB and the city of Cleveland want it to be accessible for use year around, ensuring safe play regardless of weather conditions. By including a shock pad at Luke Easter Park, the MLB and Cleveland Indians have made sure that this field will stand the test of time while keeping its community safe. 

“The reason why we wanted to have shock pads installed is so we can get the most use out of the field and use it for multiple sports,” said Kodysh.

There are many ways shock pads improve the condition of the sports surface. First and foremost, to reduce the risk of concussions it’s important to make sure the safest system is in place. Another reason is that shock pads save money. A quality shock pad is a one-time investment that lasts multiple turf replacements. On top of that, turf lasts longer over a shock pad.  Pitches with no shock pad have been proven to wear out quicker than those with shock pads, as the pad primarily protects turf backing from abrasion caused by a hard surface such as stone or asphalt. 

“One of the tenets of our mission is to strengthen communities, so this is part of baseball’s DNA,” MLB’s Vice President of Social Responsibility, Melanie LeGrande, said. “So to be able to work with the host club and leave a lasting impact after we’re gone, after all the All-Star players have gone, after the game has been played, what Cleveland will have is two fully turfed fields where kids can continue to play our game, strengthen their skills, and be what we call ‘Major League citizens.’ So that’s really important to us.” 

The other two projects are both indoor, with the first being an All-Star Student Veterans Center at Baldwin Wallace University. This building will be converted from an old single-family home into a new facility with a lounge, gaming area, full kitchen, and bathrooms.  

The third project will be a Digital Arts Suite at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s East Tech Teen Center. Brand new equipment and collaborative workspaces as well as new lounge area will be installed. This project will not only benefit the Boys and Girls clubs, but also the students of East Technical High School who will also get to utilize the space. The hope is that the retention rate in both the classroom and in Boys and Girls clubs will rise significantly.  

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is our official charity and we’ll always do a project with them as well,” said LeGrande. “To see the youth, the teams and the new East Technical Center, this visual arts suite we’re putting together, to be able to be exposed to some STEM skills is great for us not just from a baseball perspective, but a community perspective.” 

In addition to the main four projects, Larry Doby All-Star playground will also be renovated, receiving updated equipment and flooring. This is noteworthy because this park was originally constructed 22 years ago as part of the first ever Legacy Project Initiative during the 1997 Cleveland All-Star game.  

“The first legacy project was actually done here in Cleveland and were proud of that,” said Kodysh. “The Cleveland Indians, historically, have been quite generous and we have been supported on youth baseball and softball programs for a number of years.” 

A little background information about Larry Doby, he was the second baseball player to break the color barrier and the first African American in the American league. Just three months after Jackie Robinson went to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby signed with the Indians.  

Doby played for a handful of teams, but Cleveland was where he played his best ball and felt at home. He was inducted to the Indians hall of fame in 1966, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Indians renamed the name of a street next to Progressive Field “Larry Doby Way” in 2012.  Larry stepped on the diamond in Cleveland for the first time in 1947, 72 years later and his legacy still lives on stronger than ever.  

Reusing & Value Engineering Shock Pads

Reusing & Value Engineering Shock Pads

In many countries now, the number of pitch refurbishments is significantly higher than new pitch installations.

This dynamic supports the fact that for the private owner, council facility operators, sports club or a contractor, a feasibility study to assess the reuse of a shock pad is key to realising the budget and increases the probability that refurbishment plans can move forward. Only a laboratory with accreditation and the appropriate testing facilities can provide an independent, non-commercial statistical analysis to assess refurbishment project costs with accuracy. Commonly these results are requested by governing bodies and should be appended to the new field reports. Without this step, many contractors are apt to price without any knowledge as to what lies beneath the surface, thus creating a risk of sudden increases to the budget during installation and cost over-runs. Without this, it would be wise to carry a significant contingency fund to be able to cater for what lies beneath.

The main problem during the feasibility stage is that the existing facility may still be in use, perhaps leased out as a revenue generator, and most commonly artificial grass will be covering the shock pad. There is a solution to this problem, and it’s exercised frequently – it’s a requirement as per governing body specifications. It is part of the FIFA Quality Programme and the Handbook of Test Methods for Football Turf.

Below are some photos of examples of in-situ sampling of shock pads which demonstrate the type of testing carried out.

Here we will look at the type of shock pads that are commonly sampled as well as mandated testing via FIFA, forensic testing, the costs associated with undertaking inspection, and the time required to complete everything.

Type of Shock pad: In-situ or Prefabricated?
Every shock pad is a candidate for reuse and a feasibility study. The two common types of shock pads are in-situ and prefabricated. In-situ (or e-layers) comprise of a mixture of PU binder and granulated rubber crumb and are laid on-site, occasionally the PU/Rubber can be mixed with clean stone to change the properties of the shock pad. For In-situ, a shock pad’s long term performance is dependent on many factors such as binder content, SBR shape, size, chemical composition, and contaminant, to name a few. In-situ/elayer type shock pads naturally degrade over time due to oxidation of the thin binder film which sticks the rubber granulate together. Even under normal stress, they lose their tensile strength and elongation properties. Sometimes the life expectancy of in-situ pads are not reached, and the binder contents are not always to contract. As a rudimental assessment, if loose rubber is visible on top of the pad, there may be underlying issues, and the pad could be failing. It’s also a concern if the shock pad is brittle. In several recent projects, we have seen carpet bound with glue to the shock pad, and this diminishes the chances of its reuse as it is challenging to remove the existing carpet without extensive damage to the In-situ.

Prefabricated shock pads are made with a variety of different material types, density, thickness, shape, and design. They are typically manufactured in a plant and transferred to the site where they are laid loosely and jointed in several ways — butted together with jointing tape, a key link design, or tongue and groove design to name a few. Most pads are constructed from bi-product PE, PU or expanded PPE, but due to heat expansion properties, they may require slits or grooves to prevent disruptive expansion and contraction from temperature changes. Many large producers have evolved to optimize their designs to the European, ASTM, Italian, and Dutch standards. There are now ESTC guidelines which are very descriptive.

Prefabricated shock pads generally have a longer life expectancy, with some manufacturers offering warranties beyond 20 years. Always be sure to check the warranty on these shock pads when considering budgeting for a refurbishment.

Testing Table
FIFA Manual Extract

“Despite practical implications when a turf has not yet been replaced, it is not acceptable to determine the suitability based on the values obtained from testing the corner areas only. Tests shall be made no sooner than 12 months before the initial field test after resurfacing. The results of the shock pad tests shall be appended to the FIFA Field Test Report and issued to FIFA following the initial field test. Compliance with the above requirements does not override the need for the field to fully satisfy the field test requirements of the FIFA Quality Programme.’’

Costs
A feasibility study on the shock pad will vary dependant on the scope of works, but the work can generally be carried out on site in under one day. Samples are then taken back to the laboratory for further examination of tensile strength and elongation properties. It is half a day’s work for a competent test technician in a laboratory to complete these tests. Often the turf system will need to be cut open to allow access to the underlying shock pad. This is a specialist activity, especially if the pitch is still in use. Here an installer would be called upon to open and close the turf so that proper joints are made in the playing surface. In comparison to buying a new shock pad and perhaps repairing the asphalt, the costs of a site assessment are a fraction of these, which makes it a cost-effective approach to de-risking your refurbishment contract. Exclusive of international travel, an in-situ inspection is typically less than 1% of the cost of a new shock pad, making it a very cost-effective approach to assessing the reusability of a shock pad system.

Test Locations
FIFA requires 6 test locations, as seen below in Figure 2. This is compulsory for FIFA Quality Pro or Quality certification. Many projects proceed without this, unknowingly stepping outside the rules and quite regularly experiencing problems after refurbishment during certification testing

Reinstatement of the Surface After Testing
A competent maintenance contractor, or commonly an interested contractor for the refurbishment can reinstate the 1m2 areas on the field straight after the test. Glue and new seaming tape are needed with the original carpet being re-used. Again approximately half a day’s work for a competent site installation contractor. Time is required for the glues to set so this may put your pitch out of action overnight. The key is knowledge of how and where to make the clean carpet cut, so the repair is much easier after testing is complete.

Feasibility is Value Engineering
Whenever it’s possible, it is always good to re-use suitable components because it reduces the carbon footprint and ultimately cost. There’s a wealth of knowledge available on this subject and protocols you can follow to benefit your project.

Thank you Niall MacPhee, International Business Development Manager at Sportslabs, for writing such a great article!

Boise State replaces iconic blue turf field for the Second time over Brock

Boise State replaces iconic blue turf field for the Second time over Brock

Boise State University made history back in 1986 when they installed the first-ever, non-green artificial turf field in the country. Since then, the turf has been replaced in 1995, 2002, 2008, 2010, and now in 2019. Along with new turf, the field was upgraded in 2008 with a new component, Brock Shock Pads.

The updated turf marks another milestone for the industry – Brock’s artificial turf shock pads are the only pre-fabricated pads on the market to have two turf replacements while remaining in great condition.  The shock pad system has already outlasted it’s original 10-year warranty and with the expectation of a full turf life out of the new replacement turf it may double.

“It’s way brighter, looks way cleaner and it’s beautiful,” said Boise State Head Football coach Bryan Harsin in the Idaho Press. “It looks much better now, and we’ve been running and working out on it already and the players love it. It’s got good grip; it has more bounce and it’s not as hard as the other turf. You can really tell a difference 

The type of pad that is installed at this field is called Performance Base, which is actually the first type of pad Brock USA ever produced for widespread use. Since the shock pad install in 2008 at Boise State, Performance base has evolved into PowerBase and then evolved again to split off into PowerBase/Pro and PowerBase/YSR. Even though Performance Base is now out of production, it is still holding up just as well today in 2019, as it was eleven years ago.   

Boise State’s field at Albertsons Stadium, since 2008, has not just played host to football games, but also soccer games, youth camps, fairs and festivals, and even huge concerts that fill the stadium to maximum capacity. Sitting right beneath the turf and supporting all that weight is the Brock Shock Pad system. The pads are designed to survive wear and tear from sports, but also all kinds of other activities and events. In fact, on July 20th, 2019, the pads will get to prove themselves once again as Garth Brooks comes to play a sold out at show at Albertsons Stadium.

The field was unveiled to the public on Wednesday, May 5th, 2019. Fans got a chance to check out the new turf, toss a football around, and even buy a piece of the old turf if they wanted for $39.99 a piece. In the past, Boise State has sold or given away their turf for reuse, but this turf was too worn to re-sell.

The new turf will officially debut on Sept. 6 when the Broncos host Marshall in the home opener at 7 p.m. 

Kenan Stadium Caps off 5-Year Field Safety Initiative at UNC

Kenan Stadium Caps off 5-Year Field Safety Initiative at UNC

Excitement is mounting for the 2019 North Carolina Tar heels football season. The team has already sold out every home game, brought back Hall of Fame Head Coach Mack Brown, and rolled out substantial facility upgrades for its athletes – most notably, the newly renovated Kenan Stadium which features a Brock PowerBase/PRO artificial turf shock pad system to protect the athletes every time they run out of the locker room to 51,000 screaming fans. 

What people might not know about the recent stadium upgrade is that it’s been part of a much larger, campus-wide initiative.  The university first met five years ago to discuss their master plan to create safe playing environments for all their student athletes, from intramural warriors to the elite athletes taking to the gridiron. 

We started an athletic facilities master plan in January of 2014. We spent about 13 months working on that plan and the anchor project that was identified through that process was an indoor practice facility and a new practice complex for the football program. That had several projects spawn from that decision. We built new practice fields for our soccer and lacrosse programs in advance of beginning construction on the football practice complex,” said Mike Bunting, who served as Associate Athletic Director for Facility Planning and Management at the time. “That’s when we started thinking about the field technology and what we need in athletic fields, ‘How are we best going to serve the folks that are going to use those fields?’ We made the decision that any synthetic fields we develop as part of the plan, we were going to share the use of those fields with campus recreation and the university. 

This planning allowed UNC to meet the growing demand for usable athletic spaces for its active student body. The heavy use from men’s and women’s soccer, lacrosse, and the plethora of intramural leagues made the decision to go with artificial turf a no brainer, according to Bunting. That’s where FitFields and Landscape Architect, Dan Dodd came into the picture. 

“They are not just worried about the scholarship athletes, they are worried about the club athletes, the recreational players, the intramural players, and the casual players, so I think they just have a very strong awareness for student health and wellness,” Dodd said.

The confidence the planning members at UNC had with FitFields came from Dodd’s own 20-years’ experience working with athletic facilities and his extensive knowledge building high-performance systems within the Carolinas.  

“Dan is amazing. We have a really good relationship with him and have really enjoyed developing these projects with him. Dan is really in tune with all the latest and greatest in field technology, what all the synthetic turf manufacturers are doing and helping us compare and contrast those products. Of course, when you are talking about these fields and varsity athletics safety is a critical factor in the decision-making process,” said Bunting.  “The Brock Pad adds such a level of safety to what you’re doing, you want to do the absolute best you can do for the folks that are going to be using these fields and that’s the best technology that we are aware of on the market.” 

The Brock Shock Pad system was a critical component of every field design. The 25-year warranty, its Cradle-to-Cradle Certifications for environmental impacts, and the ability to hit safety and performance measurements comparable to great natural grass fields were incredibly important factors, according to Dodd. 

“Brock is one of the key elements of mimicking natural grass systems, which is the ultimate goal that we’re trying to get to with synthetic turf fields,” Dodd said. “To design a field that can come as close as possible to the real thing with the infill being the wild card on a variety of levels, but the Brock pad definitely gives us Gmax and HIC numbers that we can compare to natural grass fields, so it’s a very good base system for us to get us as close as we can.” 

Once the planning and considerations for the campus fields took shape, the shovels kicked into the ground and work began on the first of the six fields on campus. Hooker fields, the intramural facilities on campus, were the first to take shape. Then followed the soccer/lacrosse practice facilities at Finley North. Both those projects utilized PowerBase/YSR. This system was engineered for a broader range of athletes and reduces the risk of injuries while keeping the playing surface firm and fast.  

The fields at Finley North brought to light another one of the major advantages to a Brock PowerBase shock pad system – the drainage. The fields were completely submerged during Hurricane Florence last fall, but within 24 hours the water had drained from the flood plain and the soccer and lacrosse teams were able to get out and use the facilities.  

The next projects in the plan were designed for the elite football players at UNC and incorporated Brock’s PowerBase/PRO line of artificial turf shock pads.  This system is denser and has a larger impact piston design to provide the necessary impact absorption for larger, more physical athletes. The outdoor practice facility was completed last fall and the indoor practice facility was completed this spring.  

“Having done these projects in the past and working with the designers, we knew what we were getting and we knew what we wanted, putting Brock under these fields was a must for us. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about design, we knew what we wanted and the designers were able to give it to us,” said Casey Carrick, the current Director of Athletic Grounds and Turf Management. 

Those projects led up to the final major campus renovation, Kenan Stadium. The decision to move away from a natural grass surface in the stadium, which was one of the best in the nation, was not taken lightly.  The final considerations came down to allowing for more play on the field, the ability for it to be used by other sports – not just football, and the preferences from Coach Brown, according to Carrick. 

“There’s pros and cons to both synthetic turf and natural grass and we love them both, we design both. We love the purity of natural grass and if we have the ability to do it, grow it, maintain it, and keep it at professional level quality, then it’s a great option for folks, but this university experiences a lot of pressures for other groups to use this field other than just for football,” Dodd said. “Having the flexibility to have lacrosse in the stadium and for other users to use it for practice routinely, I think that was one of their decisions for the conversion as well, so it wasn’t just for football, it is also for multi-use aspects of that field.” 

Kenan Stadium was toured by the media just last week and Coach Brown highlighted some of the features brought to the field by including a Brock PowerBase/PRO system. The tour was told how the field had experienced a torrential downpour already and within minutes the field was dry because of its ability to drain water at 200 inches/hour. The guide also stated, “…the Brock Shock Pad, that’s what makes it operate almost just like grass.”

“It’s the latest best technology you can absolutely get in any kind of synthetic grass field,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Steinbacher said. “The only system that tests with the same specifications as grass is the system that I just described to you that we put in out here.” 

The Brock PowerBase/PRO shock pads were the key component in the artificial turf system at Kenan Stadium that allowed these achievements to take place, according to Carrick. 

“I think at the end of the day the goal is to make any synthetic field play like a well-maintained natural grass field,” Carrick said. “With the Brock shock pad, we are allowed to change the infill a little bit, we can go with a little more sand, make it a little firmer while still keeping the impact levels low. We can tweak the field a little bit, we can have shorter fibers in the turf, just different infills to achieve different things. That’s what the pad allows us to do and still feel comfortable with the safety levels on the field.”

All these improvements to the field, combined with the locker rooms, medical technologies, nutrition centers, and more, show a heavy investment into the athletes and students at UNC. When asked at a press conference why this was so important, Coach Brown responded, (the players) need to know that they are important. They need to know that there is change coming.”

Avoiding Sports Because Of Fear Could Be Worse For America’s Youth

Avoiding Sports Because Of Fear Could Be Worse For America’s Youth

Sports have been played, in one version or another, in almost every culture dating back thousands of years. Something about sports drives people from all corners of the earth to want to compete. People play different sports depending where they are from, but the core values, lessons, and experiences can be more or less the same.     

Unfortunately, in recent years there has been a growing mindset in the United States that sports are causing more harm than good. There are a few reasons for this mindset, one reason stemming from the amount play time some kids get compared to others, another reason being privatized teams, where only wealthy families can afford to participate. However, the biggest reason of them all is safety. It seems like every day more and more news stories are coming out about head and body injuries, unsafe field conditions, and poor sportsmanship.  

The parents who are not letting their children play sports for these reasons have a valid argument. There can be a lot of danger in sports, but just like other parts of life, running away from the problem isn’t going to fix anything. The answer is not to stop playing sports, but to make sports safer and more inclusive for all. There are numerous benefits to participating in at least just one sport, such as staying physically fit, learning life skills, and even increasing academic success at school.  

One of the most important reasons to participate in sports is to stay physically fit. With the age of technology fully upon us, it’s far more likely to see children playing on their phones rather than with a soccer ball. While technology adds a lot to our lives, it doesn’t get us moving around all that much, which is something the body actually craves. While a big bonus of staying physically active is looking fit on the outside, inside the body our bones benefit from physical activity, especially at a young age. 

“Physical activity or participation in sport should start at prepubertal ages and should be maintained through the pubertal development to obtain the maximal peak bone mass potentially achievable,” said PhD of sports science German Vicente-Rodriguez in the journal Sports Medicine. “High strain-eliciting sports like gymnastics, or participation in weight-bearing physical activities like football or handball, are strongly recommended to increase the peak bone mass.” 

While so many parents are worried about their children breaking bones during sports, playing sports actually strengthens them. Furthermore, another aspect of physical fitness is weight. The childhood obesity crisis, yes crisis, has gotten out of hand. The book, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in Balance, takes a look at the obesity situation in the United States and how rapidly the situation is getting worse.   

“Over the past three decades since the 1970s, the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2 to 5 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6 to 11 years”

– Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in Balance

One can see how this is a severe issue, obesity rates are at their highest while participation in sports keeps dwindling. Parents are worried about their child’s safety on the field when the dangers that face them at home in their room could be far more deadly in the long run. Again, the answer is to not abandon playing sports, but to minimize the risks so parents don’t have to worry for their children when they go to play them.  

These efforts should start from the ground up – literally. The playing surface is one common denominator that affects a multitude of sports and can have lasting impacts on the athletes that utilize the fields.  By designing the playing surface to absorb impacts, remain consistent and firm for running, and perform well in all weather conditions the facilitators of youth sports dramatically reduce the injury risk to the athletes. The ideal system for turf sports is a great natural grass field, but due to the need to make sports fields available to many different teams the maintenance and rest required to achieve a great natural turf field can be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. 

For these reasons, along with regional climate considerations, many people resort to installing artificial turf systems. Key components to artificial turf systems that control the safety and performance aspects are the base and shock pad layer, along with the infill material used in the system.  The old, traditional systems simply rolled out the turf over crushed stone or concrete and relied solely on crumb-rubber infill to provide the impact attenuation for tackles or falls. Modern systems utilize an artificial turf shock pad to provide the impact attenuation for the systems. This takes the pressure off the infill to provide both safety for impacts and a firm, consistent surface for running.  By putting both components in the infill, the old systems were set up for failure.  The performance characteristics run counterintuitively to one another. As you add more rubber infill to a system for impact absorption, the consistency and firmness of the field decreases and vice versa.

By adding high-performance shock pad systems, modern artificial turf fields are also moving away from crumb rubber infill entirely. Organic infills are reducing the dangerously high temperatures of artificial turf sports fields and also creating firmer, faster surfaces.  These innovative solutions are easing the minds of some parents, but coaching techniques and practice protocols also play a big role.

Participation in sports instills life skills that kids learn and are taught while playing, such as social skills, working out differences, responding to mentorship and coaching, and being a team player. Also, the type of setting the sports take place in allows kids to develop and try out different types mental and moral qualities that they have learned from other aspects of life. For example, boosting self-esteem is something all kids need at a young age, it helps build confidence and lets kids express themselves as they truly are. 

“Being part a of a team with similar goals will increase the child’s value of their self. What they contribute to the team – whether it be in leadership positions or in fulfilling important roles – will ultimately contribute to the boost in their self-esteem and their confidence,” according to Samir Becic, author of the book ReSYNC Your Life: 28 Days to a Stronger, Leaner, Smarter, Happier You. 

Learning to work as a team member and to be a friendly competitor, as well as having discipline, are all skills that are required in life, so why not learn them at a young age and in a good setting? Many aspects of life can be found within sports, which is why it is such a good way to learn about the world and a big reason why youth sports came to be in the first place.  

Along with the parents who think sports are too dangerous for their children, are those that think playing sports will interfere with academics. The reality, in fact, is just the opposite. In a study done in the journal Education and Urban Society, researcher Ryan Yeung examined the connection between high school students, athletics, and academic success.  

“In line with the overwhelming preponderance of findings in the literature, participation in high school sports does appear to have beneficial effects on academic achievement, as measured by cognitive test scores,” said Yeung. “These effects are especially eminent in reading, science, and vocabulary.” 

Not only does participating in athletics not hinder academic success, but if children can play at least just one sport, it can increase academic aptitude. Additionally, this study didn’t just focus on testing, it also wanted to see how life skills transferred over to the classroom, especially leadership skills. 

“My results also suggest leadership of athletic teams has great benefits. The gains to athletic leadership are larger than the gains of athletic participation, suggesting leadership has a benefit over and above the benefit of athletic participation,” said Yeung. “While serving as a leader of an athletic team, students may learn valuable teamwork, time management, and organization skills that improve their level of achievement in the classroom.” 

As people continue to shy away from sports because of negative reasons, it’s up to city and community members to remind each other of the positives of athletics. Instead of ditching sports, communities need figure out way to make sports safer so that parents and guardians don’t have to worry in the first place.  

1ST POWERBASE/YSR AND BROCKFILL INSTALLATION IN MISSISSIPPI AT PEARL HS

1ST POWERBASE/YSR AND BROCKFILL INSTALLATION IN MISSISSIPPI AT PEARL HS

The Pearl High School Pirates first home football game will not only be the unveiling of new Brock products to the town, but to all of Mississippi. A few other high schools in Mississippi have installed Brock ShockPad/SERIES, but Pearl will be the first to have Brock PowerBase/YSR and the first to install BrockFILL. This system solves a lot of issues schools and organizations may be facing. Of course concussions and impact injuries are always top of mind, but heat and severe weather were also taken into consideration

Water management has been an issue for years when it comes in artificial turf fields, especially in places like Mississippi where it rains substantially. Artificial turf sports field face two main issues in regards to water. The first being improper drainage where water accumulates on the field and forms puddles, leaving the surface waterlogged and unplayable until the water can be removed from the field. The second issue being the migration of infill, as water accumulates on the surface it carries the infill and places it unevenly on the field, or washes it away completely.

“We get a lot of rain down here and when it rains, it rains heavy. One of my concerns was that the wood infill was just going to wash out like everything else,” said Principal Field Architect, Jamie Wier. “ When I learned that BrockFILL was designed to absorb the water and sink, I thought, ‘I’m sold, I am ready to try this.’ This weekend we received 5 inches of rain. Most fields filled with other products suffer with infill migration with this amount of rain.”

Superintendent of Pearl Public school district, Ray Morgigno, Ph.D., also commented on migration of infills during water weather events.

“We had a pretty good rain yesterday morning and I was actually out at the field last night with the architect and it [BrockFILL] had not moved at all,” said Morgigno. “We were thinking it would all move to the edges but it didn’t, it just weighted down, so that was exciting to see.”

BrockFILL helps solve the infill migration issue, but what about the waterlogging of the field and drainage? This is where Brock PowerBase/YSR comes in. The PowerBase/YSR shock pad system is designed to drain water faster than the turf, so there should be no big buildup of water above the pads, as soon as the water seeps through the artificial turf carpet, it will drain right through the Brock Pads too.

Even with many new fields being installed nationwide this summer, BrockFILL is still a new product and making its way into mainstream infill use. Organizations like Pearl High School and the Wier, Boerner, and Allin architecture firm are jumping on the product at a good time, attempting to be trend setters for the rest of the industry.

“One of the keys to our growth is staying on the cutting edge of building technology and systems, especially when it comes to sports athletic facilities,” said Wier. “We are always looking opportunities to put our clients ahead of the curve. Our success is their success.”

Mississippi, along with getting a lot of rainfall, can get extremely hot. The heat itself is not unbearable, but when it is coupled with an artificial turf field featuring crumb rubber, the temperatures can become dangerously hot.

“The heat was probably one of the leading reasons why we chose Brock fill from the beginning,” said Pearl High Schools Head Football Coach, John Perry. “The field gets so hot in the summertime. The old field with the crumb rubber would get so hot, we had a summer camp here and were worried about the kids burning their feet.”

Beating the heat has been a hot-button issue for the artificial turf industry for years, but as the average world temperature rises it’s becoming even more critical for the industry to adapt and evolve.  This has spurred a release of many crumb-rubber infill alternatives onto the market, but designers are still looking for the option that checks all the boxes in regards to performance, durability, and safety.

“Being in the south, one of the things we really struggle with is heat. Until now, all of the infill products that we have used have not performed like we had hoped. We have been disappointed and our clients have been disappointed. Again, looking for that edge in the marketplace for our clients, when I saw the Brock infill product, I thought to myself, ‘oh man, this is it’. From heat, abrasion, impact, safety, and infill stability, Brock has introduced a system that addresses all of our issues.”

– Principal Field Architect, Jamie Wier – Wier, Boerner, and Allin architecture

BrockFILL, being made of wood, naturally doesn’t retain heat remotely close to what crumb rubber does and in fact, will absorb moisture from the air and retain rainwater to actually cool the field once the sun begins to beat down upon the turf.

Keeping their athletes safe from the heat isn’t the only concern when it comes to safety.  Another top priority is creating a firm forgiving surface for the athletes. With 1-in-5 concussions happening for a player’s head hitting the turf, it’s a major issue when designing these systems.

“One of the big selling points was the reduction in concussions,” said Morgigno. “Especially looking at the research on G-MAX and HIC and learning that the pad not only decreased your chance for concussions, but also for lower extremity injuries due to the stiffness of the pad.”

Architect Jamie Wier added, “He [Coach Perry] was having too many athletes suffering from turf related injuries. The Pearl Pirate Football team were the 2017 state champions. They are a fast and powerful team and they want the Championship again….they are hungry for it. Staying healthy is key for that. The last thing we need is our fields beating us up too.”

Coach Perry and Superintendent Morgigno both feel the community is excited to see the new field once football season kicks off.  The field has only just wrapped up with all the finishing touches after the BrockFILL installation, but the few people who have set foot on the surface seem to be impressed.

“I think they are going to love it, we designed it a little bit differently and I think everybody who has seen it absolutely loved it,” said Perry. “I think our school board and our superintendent put the best product out there that was the safest for our kids. That’s one thing our school district has always tried to do, if you are going to do something, do it right, and I think we did it right.”

The Pearl High School varsity football team will begin a new season at the end of August, looking to improve on last season’s 8-5 record and get back to their 2017 winning ways where they sported a perfect 16-0 record with a state championship to cap it off. Pearl’s first home game of the season will be played on August 30th against Warren Central High School and will be the official unveiling of their new synthetic turf field.

Dartmouth continues embracing Safety Technologies with VR Goggles

Dartmouth continues embracing Safety Technologies with VR Goggles

Dartmouth Football gained notoriety when they implemented robotic tackling dummies instead of tackling each other and was featured in the NFL media campaign, “The Future of Football.” Legendary Head Football Coach, Buddy Teevens, highlighted how coaching is changing, with an increasing eye toward player safety, and how every measure – from safer fields to practice protocols – helps make the game safer.   

Now Coach Teevens is trying to keep his players out of harm’s way by making use of virtual reality goggles. There is absolutely no risk of injury to anyone when using virtual reality goggles and players can take as many reps as they want without feeling fatigue, a great way to master the playbook, according to Teevens.

His philosophy of player safety has been built from the ground up – literally. In 2016, Dartmouth University upgraded their Memorial Field to include a Brock PowerBase/PRO shock pad system for the artificial turf. With his incredible concept of “no Dartmouth player will ever be tackled by another Dartmouth player,” they have led the Ivy League in tackles, won a championship, and “a whole bunch of football games.” 

“We’re far safer now than we were with our old surface,” Teevens said. “Bringing in the new turf, the Brock surface, has been tremendous for us. It’s a little bit more forgiving. It’s going to take a little less impact to one of my players.” 

Teevens received complaints and concerns from his coaching staff about the validity of not tackling. He was asked questions like “how are the players going to learn to hit” and “if they don’t hit other players in practice, they aren’t going to be tough enough in a game.” Teevens understood these concerns, but for him, player safety had to be a top priority. 

“Either we change the way we coach the game,” Teevens said, “or we’re not gonna have a game to coach.” 

In just the first year after imposing the tackling restrictions at Dartmouth practices, the team’s overall injury rate dropped by 80 percent. After the second year, concussions on the team had declined by 58 percent. Clearly, Coach Teevens’ strategy was working. His players were much safer and to top it off, they were enjoying successful seasons too. Since the 2014 season, Big Green has won 76 percent of their games, proving that ditching tackling in practice didn’t translate to ditching wins out on the field.  

While Teevens has faced a bit of backlash for his ideas about changing the game of football, he has a lot of supporters who understand what he is trying to do for the game. One of those supporters is Chris Nowinski, Co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation which works to further research for CTE and concussions.  

Similar to Teevens, Nowinski also has a few big ideas to help fight against head injuries. Instead of getting rid of tackling in practice, Nowinski suggests that all youth football until high school should be no contact, flag football. Decreasing exposure to subconcussive head-to-head hits is the “No. 1 thing we can do to help football players,” said Nowinski.  

Teevens’ ideas, while now fully accepted at Dartmouth, still remain unaccepted among other athletic organizations. Although the Ivy League went along with getting rid of tackling in practice, the league  recently dismissed some of Coach Teevens new suggestions; such as eliminating tackling during spring season or the pre-season and getting rid of kickoffs. These proposals were shut down quickly with the first defeated in a vote of 7 to 1, Teevens being the one, the latter idea didn’t even earn a vote. “I pretty much gave up after that one,” said Teevens. 

At the moment people like Coach Teevens are few and far between, but more people with the foresight to see that change is necessary for football to grow and thrive are speaking up. The NCAA and football leagues at all levels will likely continue adopting safer practices and equipment in the future and the game will adapt to meet the findings of new research. 

Dartmouth will face their first opponent of the season, Jacksonville University, on September 21st, at 11 a.m EST.  

Road to the World Series Starts on Brock Shock Pads

Road to the World Series Starts on Brock Shock Pads

The FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is the home of the 2019 pennant winners, Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, spring training programs. The 160-acre complex features a fan-friendly 7,700 capacity stadium as its centerpiece, along with 6 practice fields per team. Each team has two major-league-size practice fields, four minor-league-size practice fields, an agility field, a half field, batting cages, and pitching mounds. The agility fields, both feature Brock shock pads.

While all the spring training games themselves happen in the main stadium, both teams do a majority of their workouts on the agility fields.

The major reason why shock pads are being used in these fields is because agility fields are where the baseball players exercise. They have some pretty strenuous exercise routines that players go through and there is always potential for a bad fall, according to artificial turf field designers.

“If you a build an agility field with a Brock shock pad, you will have less wear and tear on your joints and lower extremities,” Pascale said. “So, as you get into the grueling baseball season, the teams that are able to do their conditioning on a field that’s going to take care of their body a little bit better, I think it leads to them being able to better play an entire season without having to really worry about accumulations of impacts leading to injuries.”

It seems as though the pads did their trick as the two teams utilizing the fields featuring Brock shock pads turned out to have the longest seasons. Of course, the addition of Brock shock pads to the agility fields may not have changed the tide of the season and made these two teams better than all the rest. However, it is a happy coincidence that the two teams that train at this complex are in the World Series, and who knows, maybe the lack of lower extremity stress early in the season did give these teams the boost they needed to go all the way.

Having pads under the agility fields is great, but it is also only step one of involving shock pad technology into the game of baseball. Each year, more baseball organizations begin to consider what shock pads could do for their team.

“I think the baseball market is the fastest growing market in the turf industry right now,” Pascale said. “The combination of being able to build a field that you can play on 24/7 no matter what the weather, along without having to deal with an insane amount of maintenance, makes it a pretty important market.”

On top of just safety, shock pads play a significant role in field performance as well. Aspects such as cleat grip, field speed, and most importantly ball bounce are often the things most discussed when thinking about installing a shock pad.

In the future there will be a real need for shock pads in baseball fields, according to industry experts. The research is coming out right now that a lot of the synthetic fields being built at the highest levels are starting to want to incorporate the pad simply because of the way the ball bounces.

Pascale added, “Having a Brock shock pad under the turf for baseball will help replicate a more natural ball bounce and ball roll. It’s not a rubbery pad so you won’t get that springy/bouncy effect and will get a more deadening effect like we see with natural grass.”

Perhaps after this season other professional teams will follow the Nationals and Astros success by installing a shock pad system of their own. In the meantime, both teams still have a big task ahead of them, winning the 2019 World Series. The Astros take a 3-2 series lead with them back to Houston for game 6 on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 6:07 p.m. MST.

Artificial Turf & The War on Microplastics: A Call To Action

Artificial Turf & The War on Microplastics: A Call To Action

Alongside global climate change, plastic pollution has surged into our popular consciousness as one of the most significant environmental issues of our time. Bags and bottles are laying waste to some of the world’s most cherished beaches, reefs, and riverways; while microplastics threaten the health of people and animals around the world. A political backlash and regulatory response is accelerating, touching a range of industries, from packaging (plastic bag bans) to personal care (the US microbead ban) to our own industry of artificial turf.

Our fast-twitch reflex, as in any industry, is to defend our turf, crying out like a fallen FIFA player about the cost of regulation and preventing change. But we have another play in our book. We can use this moment to get creative, innovating toward play surfaces that are high performance, safe, and sustainable. Great alternatives to crumb rubber microplastics already exist, but we can only accelerate their adoption and further improvement by joining forces as manufacturers, architects, customers, and communities with a vision for a better industry and a better world.

Changing expectations and regulation

First, some context. Artificial turf fields use plastic throughout our systems, but the next major collision between the turf industry and this emerging regulatory trend will occur over the crumb rubber infill in our fields. Westport, Connecticut’s legislative body passed a ban on crumb rubber as an artificial turf infill, based on concerns about children’s health. The City of San Francisco Recreation and Parks department has banned crumb rubber infill, and others will follow suit. Furthermore, crumb rubber is classifiable as a microplastic, defined by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as “small plastic pieces less than 5mm long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.” Based on this range of health and environmental concerns, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) proposed to the European Commission an immediate ban of rubber infill as of 2022. If the proposal is adopted, as of 2022 no rubber infill could be used on synthetic turf pitches within the EU and the use of such artificial pitches will be prohibited (if they are not converted with an alternative infill material).

Further attention, research, and regulation on microplastics will only point more people in our direction because of the link between car tires and crumb rubber. The BBC, as well as an Assessment Report on Microplastics conducted by the North Carolina Coastal Federation, have found that waste from tires is a significant contributor to ocean plastics. Through normal tire wear, one car tire can shed up to 20 grams of plastic dust every 100 kilometers. Now consider that crumb rubber infill means grinding up tires into tiny particles and spreading them out over acres of land for people to kick around. Instructions from artificial turf manufacturers tell clients to add rubber to their field over time, as it breaks down and migrates off site in players shoes, bags and due to weather events. Although tires are made from natural rubber about 60% of each one is comprised of synthetic polymers such as Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR). SBR is now classified a microplastic and is ending up in our waterways and our food. The migration of these plastic particles was part and parcel to the ECHA classifying them as microplastics.

“Clients are thinking about the next 8-10 years of their field and wondering if they are building something that will become obsolete before the end of its usable life because of these regulations.”

 
The choice we face

As an industry we now face a choice between a defensive and an offensive strategy. Most in the industry have begun building a fortress to defend the use of these microparticles in artificial turf. UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations has asked for their members to submit positioning papers defending the use of crumb rubber based on the economic impact a ban would have on existing and future turf fields. If successful, this defensive effort will mount powerful lobbying efforts that seek to preserve the status quo and continue the use of crumb rubber. After all, change can be expensive. And it can be terrifying to companies that have invested in materials, processes and marketing stories that are negatively affected by change.

There is another way. Crisis like this can drive innovation among those who see opportunity, not defeat. As George Bernard Shaw said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” We as an industry MUST ask ourselves this same question. There MUST be a way to design an artificial turf playing surface that is cost effective for owners, has the playing qualities athletes want, and leaves little to no environmental footprint. After all, we are a species that has sent man to space, rovers to mars, and put a buildings worth of computing power in the palm of your hand. And artificial turf is not rocket science.

With the money behind our industry organizations, we can ask for and fund the development of alternatives, rather than denying our responsibility.

Technological options

What are the alternatives to crumb rubber infill? One possible avenue is to substitute industrial plastics with a class of materials called bioplastics. A 2013 Study of “Bio-plastics As Green & Sustainable Alternative to Plastics” published by the International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering showed how industries have options to industrial plastics. “Bio-plastics are a form of plastics derived from plant sources such as sweet potatoes, soya bean oil, sugarcane, hemp oil, and cornstarch. These polymers are naturally degraded by the action of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae. Bio-plastics can help alleviate the energy crisis as well as reduce the dependence on fossil fuels of our society. They have some remarkable properties which make it suitable for different applications.”

We have to bring a critical eye to these claims, however. While bioplastics are generally considered to be more eco-friendly than traditional plastics, a 2010 study from the University of Pittsburgh found that wasn’t necessarily true when the materials’ life cycles were taken into consideration. The study compared seven traditional plastics, four bioplastics and one made from both fossil fuel and renewable sources. The researchers determined that bioplastics production resulted in greater amounts of pollutants, due to the fertilizers and pesticides used in growing the crops and the chemical processing needed to turn organic material into plastic. The bioplastics also contributed more to ozone depletion than the traditional plastics, and required extensive land use. So the jury is still out on whether bioplastics are the solution, and even if they are, it will take years and the right motivations to engineer a material that is appropriate for artificial turf.

Our other option may be to turn to mother nature. There are organic materials that are abundant and provide a sustainable, renewable natural resource that can replace crumb rubber. The United States is home to the largest sustainable forestry industry in the world. We grow and farm trees that are then used to make fuel pellets to replace coal as the fuel source for power plants in Europe. The areas that grow trees as the raw material source are now growing more trees than they are harvesting, despite the growth in the use of biofuels. An organic material to replace SBR is a logical place to start, and a wood product specifically engineered as an infill is now available and at a cost not much more than SBR. Early tests suggest that many people who play on fields with an organic infill actually prefer them over a rubber filled field.

Here we see a different set of challenges – complaints of durability, maintenance, cost, and capacity have been barriers that have prevented these natural materials from replacing SBR.
In the near term, we may have to change our expectations of what an artificial field will cost and what it will take to manage, as we shift away from our addiction to plastics. In the medium term, however, organic infill can meet these challenges.

Allies across the industry

To drive this innovation, it will take collaboration across the value chain. Fortunately, although we are talking about the plastics industry, many of these fields are designed by people who respect and honor the environment. We are speaking of the landscape architect. Sustainability has been part of the American Society of Landscape Architects mission since its founding and is an overarching value that informs all of the Society’s programs and operations. These stewards of our environment can be the driving force behind change through the specifications they write for future fields. But t it will take a community of purchasers that are willing to spend a little more and establish a new standard before the rest of the late adopters follow suit.

As a related example, the Performance Shock Pad market, a safety layer that goes under artificial turf, has only recently captured the early majority after over a decade in the U.S. market. But those who have adopted this more progressive way of thinking are now in a position to use infills that are not made of rubber because they have shock absorption already integrated into the system. And some shock pads are completely recyclable and have usable life spans of decades. These are the type of forward thinkers that will drive the change to a more sustainable sports surface. These systems are not the cheapest, but are proven to offer a superior playing surface.

It IS possible with today’s technologies to chart a new course in the artificial turf industry that reduces our environmental footprint, leaves the microplastics stigma in our past, and evolves beyond the ticking time bomb of today’s turf use and disposal into a surface we can celebrate for its performance AND its environmental harmony. The most sophisticated artificial turf sports surfaces today address both the in-use performance requirements and an end-of-life solution that avoids dumping and waste. These systems use a combination of a long-life shock pad that is re-used when the turf is replaced, and durable natural materials that provide more stable footing and a cooler surface temperature that are not microplastics. The last remaining component that needs a solution is the turf itself. But as the science and realities of climate change continue to slap us in the face, a solution must exist. We just need to go find it.

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