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The choice of the pitch

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The POWERgrass hybrid system, with constant and relatively reduced maintenance, offers the best experience of play over natural grass because the pitch is always playable, for many hours during the week, without divots. The investment in the POWERgrass system and maintenance method offers savings of over 30% compared to any other sports surface because its lifetime is estimated at over 20 years. The system is sustainable because provides a positive environmental impact, prevents soil erosion, and does not require replacement if maintained and renovated appropriately.

The type of pitches and the problems

Today's most prestigious pitches are made of natural grass or reinforced natural grass (hybrid), while intensive-use pitches are made of artificial turf. Natural pitches are constructed according to the guidelines of USGA, DIN and FIFA standards but without any mandatory criteria. Synthetic pitches, on the other hand, have been the subject of in-depth studies by FIFA in its QUALITY PROGRAM, which has divided the criteria into two levels: FIFA QUALITY and FIFA QUALITY PRO. The Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FGIC) has taken over the FIFA standards and developed them also with regard to the substrate; it has also made it compulsory for them to be certified (homologated) for use in national championships. Today in Italy there are either the LND Standard or LND Professional quality criteria.

For playing purposes, in addition to the visible requirements (drainage, flatness, absence of holes/splits), in recent years, synthetic turf research has standardised a number of characteristics regarding the quality of the playing surface that relate to 4) the softness of the pitch, 5) the stability of the playing surface, and 6) the tensile strength of the turf. These characteristics are only monitored on synthetic turf pitches simply because, on natural grass pitches, these characteristics vary greatly during the playing season so it is difficult to certify parameters for a certain period.

The players' point of view

Surface stability is essential to reduce injuriesSurface stability is essential to reduce injuries

On a natural/synthetic/hybrid grass pitch the softness, stability, bounce and roll of the ball can be easily measured but the traction of the surface seems to be the most important aspect because during the game the player is constantly accelerating, decelerating and changing direction so the interaction of the player's shoes with the sports surface is crucial to support his weight and avoid slips and falls due to the playing surface. On the one hand, players very often complain about the conditions of the playing field, but on the other hand, it is difficult to measure objective parameters.

Examining players' complaints

In our work, we are always in contact with managers who have been players and these complaints are the main topic when we look at the condition of the pitch, especially the type of playing surface, based also on the experiences they have had on the various pitches they have played on.

Curious as ever, we tried to investigate and analyse these complaints in relation to the technical characteristics of the pitch and its maintenance, and we were able to ascertain some essential aspects.

When the pitch is hard, players experience back pain. Several studies have been conducted and the industry has developed testing techniques such as the Clegg hammer, which offers the possibility of measuring the hardness of the sports surface very easily. However, it is believed that on synthetic turf pitches with rubber infill, "the springback acting as a grindstone on the player's back" deserves more investigation.

Tests are carried out on the interaction of the player's shoes with the sports surface, again only on artificial turf. One test concerns the slipperiness of the surface using an instrument that simulates the player's foot with a shoe kicking on the synthetic turf up to the point where it stops provides measurements, while on the traction resistance a round plate with cleats similar to those of shoes is used; by progressively rotating the plate the maximum force exerted to rotate 45° is measured.

According to some studies during the player's rotational action, ankle and knee sprains are more frequent on synthetic turf pitches because it seems to overgrip the player's shoe, whereas natural grass tends to yield to the player's rotational force, much like the safety pin on an engine shaft. Some attribute this 'increased grip' to the fact that synthetic turf is made with fibres that are not very resilient, after 2-3 seasons, they tend to lie 'flat' on the surface so friction and rotational resistance increase significantly, particularly as the temperature rises, which seems a sensible explanation. They claim that this risk can be reduced if the synthetic field is properly clogged, brushed frequently and the artificial fibres are lifted. On the other hand, the alternative of a natural grass pitch that fills up with holes after only a few hours of play requires costly maintenance work to restore them because the unevenness of the surface poses a greater danger of distortion.

Although an uneven natural grass surface is more dangerous than a synthetic pitch, the biggest problem with synthetic turf is not the excessive 'grip' of the cleat on the synthetic fibres, not least because the player does not rotate on himself like a dancer. On the contrary, the biggest problem seems to be the slipperiness of the surface due to a poor grip of the cleat because a) the infill material has no consistency because the infill is loose granular material and b) when the fibres are "lying" on the surface the cleat does not penetrate sufficiently so it slips more especially when the surface is wet. 

The testimonies of some of the young players gave us pause for thought because, during training, we recorded a) greater speed during running, and b) less slipperiness during acceleration, deceleration and changes of direction. Other adult players complain that when they play on artificial turf, their ligaments burn. These recurring testimonies led us to reflect on possible causes; the only plausible explanation is the grip of the cleats on the sports surface. The player's grip on the surface is what determines his stability with every play.

The real problem is slipperiness due to the lack of cohesion of the surface.

On an artificial turf pitch, even if it is in very good condition, the cleat does not grip sufficiently because, even if it were to sink completely, the infill granules are loose between the fibres, so the playing surface has no cohesion. The player feels this instability, and when he runs, the ligaments are stressed more to support his balance. Professional players are the first to feel this difference and often categorically refuse to play on an artificial turf pitch.

The ideal solution at the highest level

A natural grass pitch in its optimal state allows the studs to sink into the surface and slide less, due to the roots of the natural grass aggregating the growing medium. However, modern pitches are built on sandy substrates to promote drainage and reduce compaction by suffocating the roots but, conversely, when weather conditions are adverse the roots are weak and shallow and the action of the player tends to dislodge the natural grass sods. In addition to the high cost of repairing the holes, losing grip puts the player at greater risk of falls and sprains.

POWERgrass has a 100% natural appearancePOWERgrass has a 100% natural appearance

The POWERgrass hybrid turf solution offers more safety for the player because it aggregates the sand substrate thanks to its fibres and because it provides horizontal support for anchoring the roots. The player can use more of his energy during play and becomes more confident with the surface because he knows there will be no dangerous holes. Reducing the formation of potholes also significantly reduces the cost of post-match restoration as well as supplementary seeding and fertilisation. 

More investigation is needed to observe the stability of the playing surface and the interaction of the players' cleats in order to better understand the problem and study measurable parameters in all types of pitches. What is certain today is the fact that more and more players feel the difference in the slipperiness of the surface, not to mention the fact that everyone likes to play on natural grass because the bounce of the ball is predictable.

The need therefore arose for a natural grass pitch with greater stability and traction, for a high number of hours, with reduced maintenance, playable almost 'all the time' and this is what POWERgrass offers today. 

By training on POWERgrass hybrid grass, players feel the stability, traction and comfort that the mixed surface offers, so they can practice intensively, to improve their performance while playing!

Training and playing on POWERgrass hybrid grass for 4-6 hours a day is a given in about 30 installations!

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