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NFLPA says injury rates were significantly higher on artificial turf than grass in 2022

Mike Florio and Chris Simms break down how artificial turf can be just as dangerous as certain plays and analyze at what point the league must look to change playing surfaces instead of changing rules.

During the 2022 season, ESPN published data supplied by the NFL that purported to show that injury rates on grass and artificial turf were approximately the same. The NFL Players Association says that data was misleading, and that the NFL highlighted one outlier year’s worth of injury rates when the full body of research makes clear that players are injured more often on artificial turf.

According to the NFLPA, the NFL selectively released injury data from 2021 only, and 2021 happened to be an unusual year because injury rates on artificial turf and grass were very similar that year -- although even in 2021, players were slightly more likely to be injured on turf. But in every other season besides 2021, the NFLPA says, injury rates were significantly higher on turf.

That includes the 2022 season, when injury rates on turf were as high as ever -- and when the NFL didn’t make an effort to get those injury rates published by the media.

NFLPA President J.C. Tretter wrote on the NFLPA’s website that the injury data from the 2022 season makes clear that 2021 was a statistical outlier, and that in every other season for which there is injury data to compare grass and turf, grass has proven significantly safer.

“In short, last year, the gap – much like the NFL’s credibility with players on this issue – was as wide as it has ever been, proving that (as the NFLPA suspected) 2021 was in fact an outlier,” Tretter writes. “Now, 10 of the previous 11 years show the same exact thing -- grass is a significantly safer surface than turf.”

Tretter said the players can’t trust the NFL when it would selectively release misleading data on players’ health and safety.

“The credibility the league has with the players on health and safety issues is virtually nonexistent,” Tretter writes. “Instead of following the long-term data (which is clear on this issue), listening to players and making the game safer, the NFL used an outlier year to engage in a PR campaign to convince everyone that the problem doesn’t actually exist.”

The union would prefer that every NFL stadium have a grass field, but it making little progress in convincing the league to take the issue seriously. In fact, this year one more stadium will have a turf field, as the Titans have announced that they’re replacing their grass with an artificial surface.