The added risks of playing football on artificial turf were on full display Sunday at the Super Bowl when Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a non-contact knee injury that, according to reports, is a torn ACL.
The San Francisco 49ers have experienced several severe injuries over the past few seasons, disproportionately in games they played on artificial playing surfaces. So unsurprisingly, several prominent Niners have taken to social media to call on the NFL to shift to natural grass.
I’ve been saying, artificial turf feels like playing on cement. It’s time to play smarter, not harder! Help us #FlipTheTurf by signing the petition https://t.co/xLEAMmD6Xv @Penningtonlawn #penningtonpartner pic.twitter.com/Z3z27P9Row— George Kittle (@gkittle46) February 13, 2022
The petition was created by the Pennington Grass Seed company, which does have a financial incentive for the NFL to move away from artificial turf.
However, studies have consistently shown that games played on natural grass have significantly fewer injuries than those on artificial turf.
After Beckham’s injury, several other stars on the 49ers shared their support for a change on Twitter. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel did not share the petition but said, “Turf should be banned.”
Edge rusher Nick Bosa linked to the same petition as Kittle and talked about his own experience, having suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season on the artificial turf at MetLife Stadium.
Every player is one play away from altering their career forever when playing on turf. I experienced the— Nick Bosa (@nbsmallerbear) February 14, 2022
bad side of this and it could have been avoided. Help me #FlipTheTurf to real grass with @penningtonlawn. Sign here: https://t.co/zAUcWTBDJy #penningtonpartner pic.twitter.com/NXpqC8bGMo
During the 2020 season, San Francisco suffered a slew of injuries on turf. Former Niners defensive lineman Solomon Thomas also tore his ACL against the Jets that season while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Raheem Mostert suffered a sprained ankle or knee. While they were reeling from those injuries, 49ers general manager John Lynch said he hoped the league would shift to only grass fields.
Still, 2020 was not the only time the Niners have been hit hard by injuries after playing on turf. When the Niners played the Detroit Lions in Week 1 this past season, both Jason Verrett and Raheem Mostert suffered season-ending injuries on the Lions’ artificial playing surface.
Players have voiced frustration with playing on artificial turf for some time. However, the NFL has rarely faced any collective action from their players.
With 16 NFL teams currently playing their home games on artificial turf, it will likely take a groundswell of action from players to prompt a change. Given how quickly some of the biggest stars in the league have voiced their support for grass playing surfaces, though, that might be more likely than previously thought.