NFL Players Demand End to Artificial Turf on Playing Fields

Lloyd Howell, executive director of the NFL Players Association, stated on Tuesday that the union wants 92 percent of its members to play on natural grass. He mentioned injuries, general soreness, and burns as reasons for most of the players wanting to switch from artificial turf. Maintaining artificial turf is less expensive and requires less effort, but players prefer to play on grass. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said he has to wear “turf tape” to prevent burns and described turf as a much harder surface. Bengals safety Michael Thomas also mentioned how turf practices left players sore before NFL games.

Several studies have found that there are more injuries on turf compared to natural grass, particularly non-contact injuries. The type of turf that was commonly used in the past has been replaced by new technology, and crumb rubber is commonly used on fields. Concerns about chemical exposure have led to studies and lawsuits, with some athletes developing cancer after playing on turf with rubber crumbs. Law firms are preparing for potential class-action lawsuits related to this issue. Furthermore, some scientists claim that the presence of chemicals on turf does not necessarily mean humans will absorb enough of them to cause cancer.

Despite these concerns, the NFL has been slow to switch to natural grass. Some stadiums switch back to natural grass when hosting high-level matches, but the NFL has not followed suit. FIFA has mandated natural grass surfaces for the 2026 World Cup, and it is possible for stadiums to switch to natural grass for NFL teams as well.