Synthetic turf has become a highly engineered system. Its advantage is that it can guarantee and predict the performance and quality of a field over a long period of time. Shock pads play a key role in this as they provide a safe and comfortable surface for that duration and beyond. Players and stadium owners are the major beneficiaries as the synthetic turf allows for safe year-round use of fields for multiple sports and events.
Artificial grass sports fields have been around for many years. Recognition for the contribution they can make towards the safety and well-being of athletes has gained additional momentum recently. The need for a shock pad has also become more widely recognised. “It is almost impossible for a field to pass the test when it doesn’t have a shock pad underneath the carpet,” said the Head of Technical Services for World Rugby, Mark Harrington, in an interview published in the newsletter of the Synthetic Turf Council (STC) last year. World Rugby is the international custodian of rugby and works together with scientists to improve the safety of rugby fields. Many international sports federations have included the improved norm for a Critical Fall Height in their most recent standards. Artificial grass fields have to comply to reduce the likelihood of a concussion when players hit a field head first.
With the bar being raised continuously, deciding on which artificial grass surface should be installed has become a true challenge. “There are many different synthetic turf systems and it takes time for buyers to evaluate and understand which one they should choose,” says Leon Behr, regional sales manager for Schmitz Foam Products.
“Things have now become more complicated as, apart from selecting the right turf and infill combination, shock pads have been added to the mix.” This trend, along with the renewed emphasis on player safety, changes the evaluation process. The science of synthetic turf now allows for systems with improved shock absorption (Increased Critical Fall Height, lower Gmax) while maintaining reduced movement under-foot during play (reduced Vertical Deformation).
The good news for owners is that there is excellent help available to assist evaluating turf systems. Architects and engineers specialised in designing sports flooring systems and sports facilities are able to advise owners in the process. “They are up-to-date with the products that are being offered and the latest trends and developments in the industry. Furthermore, there is a large group of contractors that have tremendous experience in installing synthetic surfaces. These contractors too can provide valuable information.”
Vital Part of the System
Shock pads are an essential component as they absorb the impact when players fall on a field. They also manage the energy a player requires when running over a field. “They provide a solid foundation and a solid feel underfoot, making it very comfortable for athletes to play on a surface with a high-quality shock pad,” Behr explains.
Good quality shock pads manage the thin balance between providing a solid feel underfoot and the shock absorbing characteristics. It’s a science that Schmitz Foam Products has mastered over many years. Their shock pad, ProPlay, is being used in sports fields in over 70 countries. “Sports governing bodies and the various developers of synthetic turf systems extensively test these systems to establish how and if they meet the criteria.”
Tried and Tested
Artificial grass systems, including the shock pad, are subjected to rigorous testing before they are approved for use by international sports federations. The Lisport-XL is one of those tests. It replicates realistic wear simulation of sports fields over years of usage. Virtually all companies base the warranty period for their product on the outcome of this test. “ProPlay hardly experiences degradation hence we are comfortable to offer a 25-year warranty. This will offer the facility owner significant benefits as he is able to reuse the shock pad for at least two and possibly three installations of turf,” Behr points out.
It’s a warranty period that they substantiate based on an increasing number of installations. “We have a growing list of installations where it was decided to replace the carpet after a number of years but where they continued using the same ProPlay panels that had been installed initially.”
The performance and safety of artificial grass fields can be predicted, even over a longer period. Providing the right artificial grass system is selected, shock pads like ProPlay can guarantee a safe field for up to 25 years.
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