These are the results of two recently published Norwegian studies with 4 years data collection each; one on seasonal play among male professional players, and the other one from the World´s largest youth football tournament, the Norway Cup.
Artificial turf is used extensively in both recreational and elite football in areas with difficult climatic conditions.
Furthermore, due to advantages such as longer playing hours and lower maintenance costs, artificial turfs is getting foothold also in countries where grass fields normally dominate.
However, data on the risk of acute and overuse injuries when playing on artificial turf is still limited.
Professional Norwegian male league play
All injuries sustained by players with a first team contract were recorded by the medical staff of each club from the 2004 throughout the 2007 season.
An injury was registered if the player was unable to take fully part in football activity or match play.
A total of 668 match injuries, 526 on grass and 142 on artificial turf, were recorded. The overall acute match injury incidence was 17.1 (95% CI 15.8 to 18.4) per 1000 match hours; 17.0 (15.6 to 18.5) on grass and 17.6 (14.7 to 20.5) on artificial turf.
Correspondingly, the incidence for training injuries was 1.8 (1.6 to 2.0); 1.8 (1.5 to 2.0) on grass and 1.9 (1.5 to 2.2) on artificial turf respectively. No significant difference was observed in injury location, type or severity between turf types.
The authors of this study from the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Group were John Bjørneboe, Roald Bahr, and Thor Einar Andersen.
Read the paper in British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Norway Cup - the world´s largest youth football tournament
Over 60 000 players 13–19 years of age were followed in four consecutive Norway Cup tournaments from 2005 to 2008. Injuries were recorded prospectively by the team coaches throughout each tournament.
An injury was defined as any injury, painful condition, or physical complaint sustained by a player, irrespective of the need for medical attention or time-loss from football activities.
The overall incidence of injuries was 39.2 (SD: 0.8) per 1000 match hours; 34.2 (SD: 2.4) on artificial turf and 39.7 (SD: 0.8) on grass.
After adjusting for the potential confounders age and gender, there was no difference in the overall risk of injury [odds ratio: 0.93 (0.77–1.12) or in the risk of time loss injury [1.05 (0.68–1.61)] between artificial turf and grass.
This long-term project was carried out by an OSTRC research group with PhD student Torbjørn Soligard, Roald Bahr, and Thor Einar Andersen.
Read the paper in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine in Science and Sports.
Still limited data on overuse injuries
By definition, overuse injuries occur over time with a gradual onset, and the traditional study design and methodology does not allow for attribution of overuse injury to a specific event or a particular turf type. Thus, the significance of artificial turf in the aetiology of overuse injuries is still uncertain.
There is now one study on youth football players (12-17 years) showing a significantly higher incidence of low back pain during training.
In addition, there is ongoning research quantifying overuse injury risk in athletes. A long awaited methodological paper on the epidemiology of overuse injuries is now introduced.