|Research could lead to fewer turf-related injuries|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 10 May 2008 08:39|
But the machine Seth Kuhlman built could provide the NFL with some of the most comprehensive information available on how and why turf-related injuries occur, and if changes in footwear or artificial turf could result in fewer injuries for NFL players.
The NFL gave Boise State researchers a $115,000 grant last year for the project. Kuhlman designed and built the machine in a lab that sits about 500 miles from the nearest NFL stadium.
``We just happened to have the facilities here,'' Kuhlman said.
Next month, an NFL Injury and Safety subcommittee will see the device for the first time.
League trainers and physicians are looking to prevent some of the most common foot and ankle injuries among players, primarily high-ankle sprains and turf toe, an ailment involving joint tears, swelling and intense pain often linked to playing on artificial surfaces.
The machine, about the size of a small U-Haul trailer, holds two tanks of compressed gas that are used to operate a series of levers. A metal rod running through the center of the machine is fitted with a size-12 shoe with cleats.
At the touch of a laptop, Kuhlman can swivel the metal ankle joint and switch the shoe position. He can simulate a football player's body weight and use pressurized gas to copy the force they exert on turf while running. He can measure the ankle bend when the shoe makes contact with the ground.
About half the 31 NFL stadiums use artificial surfaces, according to the turf industry's Atlanta-based trade group, the Synthetic Turf Council.
Artificial surfaces have been around since the 1960s, first installed in the Houston Astrodome and called Astroturf. Those original playing surfaces were essentially a synthetic carpet laid over a thin rubber pad installed over a slab of concrete. Stadium turf now consists of individual blades of polyethanol fibers woven into a padded backing filled with sand or rubber, sometimes a mixture of both.
``It looks and plays like natural grass,'' said Stanley Green, president of the Pennsylvania-based Sprinturf company, which announced a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs in February.
Manufacturers claim the synthetic fields are cheaper to maintain and safer for players. But Dr. Michael Coughlin, co-chairman of the NFL subcommittee on foot and ankle injuries, contends the new playing surfaces may create more of a risk for ankle and foot injuries.
``We have some preliminary information that leads us to believe that there may be a higher injury rate on the newer infill surfaces compared to grass,'' Coughlin said.
Researchers are scheduled to test the device in Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas this summer.