Study shows college football players have significantly faster change-of-direction times on field turf than on natural grass
Do college football players perform better on the modern field turf artificial playing surface than on natural grass? The answer is yes for performance on a standard agility drill, but not for 40-yard dash speed, reports a study in the October issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, and pharmacy.
"It appears that straight-ahead sprint speed is similar between field turf and natural grass, but change-of-direction speed may be significantly faster on field turf," according to the new research, led by Gradyon L. Gains, B.A., of Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo.
Agility Times Average Three Percent Faster on Field Turf
Twenty-four Division II college football players were timed on two standard drills: a 40-yard dash and the "proagility" shuttle test. Both drills are a standard part of skills assessment for football players and other athletes.
The athletes performed each test two times: once on field turf and once on natural grass. Times were compared to see if performance was affected by the playing surface. There was no significant difference in 40-yard dash times: average 5.34 seconds on field turf and 5.33 seconds on natural grass.
However, time on the proagility shuttle was significantly shorter on field turf: average 4.49 seconds, compared to 4.64 seconds on natural grass. "This represented a 3.0 percent faster agility time on field turf," Gains and coauthors write.
On the 40-yard dash, athletes were timed using both a hand timer and an electronic timer. The hand-timed sprints were significantly faster than the electronically times sprints, on both field turf and natural grass. "This reinforces the need for standardization of the timing technique in short sprints," the researchers write.
Field turf, a "third-generation" artificial playing surface, has gained wide acceptance as a preferred playing field for American football. With older artificial surfaces, straight-ahead sprint times were faster than on natural grass. Few studies have looked at how newer artificial surfaces—especially field turf, which was developed to more closely mimic natural grass—affect performance times.
In the new study, college football players have significantly faster change-of-direction times on field turf than on natural grass. However, straight-ahead sprint times are similar on field turf than on natural grass.
The lack of difference in 40-yard dash times was somewhat surprising—since field turf produces less slippage between the shoe and surface, it might have been expected to produce faster sprint times. The results could be affected by differences in the shoe sole and stud configuration used for the tests, Gains and coauthors suggest. The reduced slippage with field turf might potentially lead to an increased risk of injury with change-of-direction moves, "although evidence for this is currently lacking," the researchers write.
About The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
The editorial mission of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) is to advance the knowledge about strength and conditioning through research. A unique aspect of this journal is that it includes recommendations for the practical use of research findings. While the journal name identifies strength and conditioning as separate entities, strength is considered a part of conditioning. The journal wishes to promote the publication of peer-reviewed manuscripts which add to our understanding of conditioning and sport through applied exercise science. The JSCR is the official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
About the National Strength and Conditioning Association
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978 serving over 33,000 members worldwide. The NSCA develops and presents the most advanced information regarding strength training and conditioning practices and injury prevention. Central to its mission the NSCA bridges the gap between the scientist in the laboratory and the practitioner in the field. By working to find practical applications for new research findings in the strength and conditioning field, the Association fosters the development of strength training and conditioning as a discipline and as a profession.
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