Since being installed in Houston's Astrodome in 1966, AstroTurf has revolutionised the way playing fields are constructed. AstroTurf is a synthetic surface constructed mostly of rubber, plastic and nylon fibres, and it can be used anywhere from backyards to sports arenas. It is largely used in place of natural grass and, since its inception, has become a popular playing surface in college and professional stadiums all around the world.
The primary advantage of AstroTurf is that it requires little maintenance, compared to real grass. AstroTurf does not need to be watered or fertilised, which can save a considerable amount of money over the course of the year. Lines do not need to be painted more than once or twice per year. On real grass, lines will begin to fade after only a few uses. AstroTurf will not be attacked by natural pests, such as birds and insects, which saves additional maintenance and pesticide costs. AstroTurf can take considerably more wear and tear than real grass. Under normal use, an AstroTurf field can last 10 years or more before it needs to be replaced.
Because of the little treatment it requires, AstroTurf is kind to the environment. It does not need to be watered, which can save millions of gallons of water per year for each field. It also does not require treatment with potentially harmful pesticides or fertilisers.
When used as a playing field surface, AstroTurf can be used any time, in any season. It will not get muddy after heavy rainfall. It will not dry out during hot, dry stretches. Unlike real grass, AstroTurf can easily be used in winter--even in below-freezing temperatures. Since it does not contain the natural moisture that soil does, AstroTurf does not freeze over in winter and can thus safely be used year-round.
A disadvantage of AstroTurf is its dissimilarity to natural grass. In sports such as baseball or lacrosse, AstroTurf does not give the "true" bounces that real grass does. Because of AstroTurf's firmness, balls tend to bounce higher and faster than on a natural playing surface, which can be exceptionally tricky for inexperienced users. Additionally, it is possible for some areas of the playing field to wear out more rapidly than others, leading to "dead" areas where balls do not bounce as high.
AstroTurf brings about several safety concerns for those using it. The surface's abrasive nature leads to a higher number of rug burn-type injuries, which are more prone to infection than injuries on natural grass. Because of its lack of give, more injuries occur among professional athletes on AstroTurf than on natural playing surfaces. According to the Hospital for Special Surgery website, injuries such as anterior crucial ligament tears, ankle sprains and concussions occur more frequently on AstroTurf than on natural grass surfaces. Other injuries, such as turf burns and turf toe, are almost exclusive to AstroTurf.
Because of its tendency to trap sunlight rather than reflect it, AstroTurf can produce extremely high temperatures. A study at Brigham Young University concluded that surface temperatures on AstroTurf fields can reach temperatures up to 21.1 degrees C higher than on grass fields, with temperatures in some cases reaching greater than 65.6 degrees C. These temperatures can be dangerous for athletes and can lead to overheating and dehydration, and, in some cases, can cause blistering.