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NCSPA and TPI Condemn UNC’s Decision to Install Artificial Turf



Casey Reynolds, PhD

Executive Director, Turfgrass Producers International

phone: 847-737-1846

email: creynolds@turfgrasssod.org

Preston Cavenaugh, president

N.C. Sod Producers Association

980-333-0600; pcavenaugh@supersod.com

RALEIGH – A turf war is ensuing in the Tar Heel State after UNC-Chapel Hill’s recent decision to replace the natural grass in Kenan Memorial Stadium with artificial turf. The N.C. Sod Producers Association, a trade group representing turfgrass farmers across the state, calls the decision troubling and unsafe.

“It is clear that this decision has little to do with field performance, health, or safety and more to do with preference of an incoming coach,” said TPI Executive Director, Dr. Casey Reynolds. “It also appears that this decision was made with little to no regard for the health and welfare of UNC student-athletes or of the countless children who will be affected if local schools and communities follow this example.”

-Dr. Casey Reynolds, TPI Executive Director

Both associations cite a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that shows plastic, synthetic athletic fields result in a significantly higher injury rate among NFL athletes. The study, “Higher Rates of Lower Extremity Injury Rates on Synthetic Turf Compared with Natural Turf Among NFL Athletes,” reviewed 4,801 lower body injuries occurring during the 2012-16 NFL seasons. Following are key findings from the report:

  • Synthetic turf resulted in a 27% increase in non-contact lower body injuries.
  • There was a 68% higher ankle injury rate on synthetic turf resulting in any time lost from injury and a 103% increase in injury rates on synthetic turf resulting in more than 8 days time lost from injury.
  • If every NFL game were played on natural grass during these 5 seasons, there would have been 319 fewer lower body injuries.

The natural grass currently used in Kenan Memorial Stadium was grown at a farm in Indian Trail, NC, and was awarded Field of the Year by the national Sports Turf Managers Association in 2018.

Every year, N.C. Sod Producers grow over 13,000 acres of sod valued at $47 million, but lose local business to out-of-state plastic, synthetic field companies that falsely claim their product is cheaper, safer and maintenance free. The association is concerned that the change may set a precedent that other schools will follow, which will cost local farmers revenue and will cost rural communities jobs.

“It is unnerving that North Carolina’s leading educational institution would chose to replace a locally-grown, award-winning, agricultural product with an out-of-state, plastic product that is not only more expensive, but less safe for student-athletics,” said NCSPA President Preston Cavenaugh.

-Preston Cavenaugh, President, NC Sod Producers Association