Artificial turf is a type of surface made of plastic materials that perfectly simulates natural grass lawns. Nowadays, this type of field plays a very important role in the sporting sector, since it’s regarded as a real solution to be considered from the outset when planning to create a new facility.
THE HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL TURF
The history of artificial turf is based on the technical evolution of these surfaces, the ultimate goal having always been to create new solutions that are better suited to the performance of athletes.
It all began in the 1960s, when the first artificial turf field was installed in the Reliant Astrodome, a sports arena in Houston, Texas (USA). As this was an indoor facility, natural grass would not grow well due to the lack of sun, therefore an artificial turf surface was chosen.
In the 1970s, a new type of surface became popular, later called a ‘first-generation’ surface, consisting of very dense abrasive nylon fibres. It was first used for playing football and hockey in the USA.
In the 1980s, ‘second-generation surfaces’ were created: propylene yarns about 35 mm high, somewhat less abrasive than the first-generation ones, with silica sand infills. In Italy, this turf developed hand in hand with the spread of five-a-side football.
‘Third-generation turfs’ were the innovation of the 1990s: soft yarns made of lubricated polyethylene with SBR recycled rubber granule infills, which made an artificial turf surface much more like natural grass turf (as regards comfort and biomechanical properties). This generation is the one that has focused more on shock absorption and a reduction in injuries as a result of falls due to friction.
Since 2000, however, ‘latest generation surfaces’ have started to become popular.
FOURTH-GENERATION ARTIFICIAL TURF SURFACE: WHAT IS IT?
Latest generation artificial turf fields have proven to be a viable choice owing to the many advantages they offer, making them highly competitive compared to traditional natural grass fields. This fourth, and latest generation artificial turf stands out from other solutions on the market due to its higher quality and greater variety of yarns. The surface requires low maintenance (which results in savings in terms of time and management costs) while generally offering greater usability for longer periods of time and more frequent training.
Choosing the latest generation of artificial turf is therefore worthwhile for both facility operators and athletes.
ARTIFICIAL TURF SURFACES: SPORTS FIELD REGULATIONS
As the preamble to the latest edition of the Regulations approved by the Federal Commission in 2018 states, in Italy, the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti (LND) is the association responsible for establishing ‘regulations regarding the construction of artificial turf football fields and related materials’.
LND Regulations set out the procedures for the testing and approval of the field. In addition to the prescribed administrative procedures and tests, they define what is to be understood as the artificial turf ‘system’. This ‘system’ includes many factors: the fibre, the performance infill, the stabilising infill, the sheet bonding system, the elastic underlay and the subfloor. Moreover, for each one of these, the Regulations include all the regulatory information necessary for establishing the technical requirements needed to pass performance tests that will then be carried out on the field (vertical and angular rebound, ball rolling, shock absorption, etc.). It’s important to underline the fact that, as stated in the preamble to the afore-mentioned Regulations, studies and research carried out by the LND have resulted in a significant variation in certain parameters, regarding the player’s movements, the type of performance infill materials, the materials used for elastic underlays, as well as the fibre of the tuft of grass creating the turf.