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Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy

Effect of Turf surfaces on the incidence of low back pain in field hockey

Author(s): Kumar Bharti, Paul Maman, Sandhu Jaspal S.

Vol. 1, No. 3 (2007-07 - 2007-09)

Print-ISSN: 0973-5666, Electronic - ISSN: 0973-5674,

(1)Kumar Bharti, (2)Paul Maman, (3)Sandhu Jaspal S.

(1)MSPT Student, (2)Lecturer, (3)Dean and Head Department of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab


Participation and sports and recreational activities have increased in recent times and Hockey is one such sport gaining immense popularity between the young players. The advent of synthetic surface has significantly changed the sport by increasing the speed of the game, causing increased injury potential. The present study was undertaken to compare the effect of the turf surfaces on the incidence of low back pain in Field hockey Players. State, National and International level players (N=201) with the age bar of 14 to 28 years from five cities of Punjab. A questionnaire containing history of back pain, personal characters tics, turf information (no. of training hours and type of surface played) was completed. Back pain was more prevalent on Astroturf surface (39.13%) as compared to grass surface (28.57%). Males were more afflicted than females. The study provides an insight to coaches, Sports medicine personnel about the relationship between turf surfaces and injury potential in order to formulate well-designed training programs and making them free from injury.

Keywords: Grass and Astroturf, Field hockey, Epidemiology


Field hockey is a game with an inbuilt symmetry; rules of which allow the stick to be played right handed with only one side of the stick to be played (6).The introduction of synthetic surfaces has significantly changed the sport of field hockey; the turf of which differs from soccer and foot ball in a way that it does not try to reproduce a grass feel being made of shorter fibers allowing the improvement of speed.

The international field hockey Federation (FIH) has developed performance standards for hockey pitches based on ball rebound, ball run, and deviation, impact, response, surface friction, dimensions, slope, smoothness, color, gloss, watering, porosity and surface health (9). Further artificial turf can be a better solution when the environment is particularly hostile to natural grass and requires minimal maintenance, however it is much harder than the natural grass which contains 75-80% water by weight, keeping field at moisture level that helps to maintain players’ ability to perform better.

Previous studies have reported a rising incidence of back ailments on Astroturf surface in many sports (1, 5). Further injuries may be incurred on artificial turf than another surface because of its stiffness and the increased frictional force at the shoe and surface interface (2).

Numerous researches have been done in the past regarding the comparison of grass and Astroturf in context of gross injury patterns mainly in the western world however very less studies have been done in past specifically on incidence of low back pain on grass and Astroturf surface in field hockey, another aspect which cannot be overlooked was the environmental factors which varies through out the world and hence keeping these aspects in mind the study was designed considering the Indian scenario, climatic conditions ,social and economic factors to examine the incidence of back ailments of various turfs in field hockey in one of the most popular state for sports(Punjab) with a sample size of 201 hockey players.


All data were collected using a cross sectional design during the month of May-Sep.2006. The athletic trainers of all the teams were contacted from five cities of Punjab and asked to participate. All of the teams and players contacted agreed to participated. The sample consisted of 201 hockey players (both males and females). Each player signed a consent form before filling out questionnaire. The study consisted of 14 International, 140 National and 47 state level players. A structured questionnaire was designed consisting of back pain history, personal characteristics and turf characteristics (type of surface played, number of hours played per day) and a thorough clinical evaluation of back. Respondents were asked whether the injury affected their performance or caused them to miss games or practices. The descriptive statistics included calculation of mean values an percentages of injury rates-number of injured players/total number of player’s ×100 and unpaired T-test was applied for calculating the mean training hours.


Injuries on Astroturf turf surface 39.13 %( N=54) were higher than injuries on grass surface28.57 %( N=18), (Fig.1 and 2)

On both Astroturf and grass surface males had higher number of injuries than females (fig. 3 and 4).

Mean training hours of asymptomatic group was higher than symptomatic group but was however statistically insignificant. (table 1)


The epidemiological study showed that hockey players had greatest number of injuries to back on Astroturf surface as compared to grass surface and so it followed the trend of other injury patterns in Field hockey particularly soft tissue injuries, sprains and strains which were more common on Astroturf surface and joint injuries on grass, due to the semi crouched position assumed by the hockey players which impose a greater spinal load causing back pain(3).

It was also suggested that risks for injury would be higher on a new surface (Astroturf surface) due to different types of playing styles, the difference was noted between a poor standard grass pitch (Long grass, uneven surface and a good standard grass pitch (short grass, even surface) before the introduction of synthetic pitch. As a flat smooth surface of well rolled, short grass immediately raises the standard of the play and gives the players a surge of confidence (11). One of the possible reasons behind the rising incidence of injuries on Astroturf surface was the increased frictional force at the shoe or surface interface (9). Stiffness of a surface affects the impact of forces and can result in overload to tissues such as bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon and ligament. Although friction is necessary for rapid starting, stopping, cutting and pivoting inherent in sports; however increased frictional force may contribute to increased incidence of injuries among the athletes who play on artificial turf (4).

The present study showed that males were more susceptible to back ailments on both artificial and natural surface than females. The possible reason of which could be that boys compete at a higher level of competition in sports and had greater risk of injury (8).

Thus the study emphasizes on the fact that Astroturf surface has its own potential hazards making players more prone to injuries as compared to grass surfaces. The natural cushioning effect gives immediately visible and functional results from the mature turf grass sod (7) along with better physical environment for players where temperature and humidity effect are superior to the artificial surfaces and thereby causing fewer abrasions, safer recreational surfaces in hockey.

One of the major limitations of the study was that it relied heavily on the athlete’s abilities to accurately recall the injuries and clinical details may not be reliable and there is tendency for the adverse events to be recalled as more recent than they actually occurred (10)along with a smaller sample size of 201 hockey players. Another limitation of the study was that only surface effects were considered while it is the combination of both the shoe and the surface that it is implicated for increased injury potential implicating the need for further research.


The study is done with a perspective to edify players, coaches and sports medicine personnel to know the effects of turf surfaces both pros and cons in order to formulate well designed training program to make the players free from injury.

Table 1: Mean Training Hours of Hockey Players

Sport Symptomatic Asymptomatic t-value
Mean S.D. S.E. Mean S.D. S.E.
Hockey 147.06 28.07 3.19 146.40 20.95 1.88 0.19*

Injuries on Astroturfact surface

Injuries on grass surface

Injuries on astroturf surface according to gender

Injuries on gras surface according to gender


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Corresponding Author: Kumar Bharti,
MSPT Student, Department of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Ph no. +91-9815465162;

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