Artificial grass football fields a source of safety concerns

Artificial turf fields came to the Treasure Valley with loads of promises.

Year-round use.

Lower water bills.

Consolidating multiple teams — football, soccer, lacrosse — onto one field.

In the past 11 years, Meridian, Eagle, Rocky Mountain and Middleton high schools bought into those promises, installing synthetic turf fields on their campuses. Dona Larsen Park followed in 2012 to host Boise’s four public high school football programs.

But public records show inconsistent oversight of industry safety and testing standards, raising the question: How safe are these fields?

Schools say the fields fall within established safety limits, but some experts say electing to adhere only to the highest allowable standard misses the point and puts players at risk.

“If you run at 10 mph as hard as you can, and you run into a brick wall and hit your head, you could expect to die,” said Buzz Splittgerber, who specializes in testing artificial turf. “What if I run into that same wall at 9 mph? What do I expect to happen — good things?”


So how hard is too hard? Testers use what’s called a G-max test to measure impact on the field. The…

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