John Gallucci on Keeping Cool When Playing on Turf
A dynamic expert in injury prevention, rehabilitation, sports medicine and athletic conditioning, Gallucci is the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer (MLS), overseeing the medical care of 600 professional soccer players. Gallucci is the former Head Trainer of the New York Red Bulls MLS team and is a Sports Medicine consultant for professional athletes in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and USA Wrestling. Gallucci, Jr. is also President, JAG Physical Therapy & JAG Pediatric Therapy.
The controversy of Turf vs Grass is a growing debate but one part of the bottom line is simple – how do you stay cool when playing on turf in the summer? Youth soccer players all cross America will play on turf fields in the high heat of summer. Keeping cool on the soccer field this summer, especially turf fields — SoccerToday spoke with Gallucci Jr. to get more information on this “hot” topic.
The temperatures outside are quickly rising and in the world of soccer, summer tournaments are in full swing! As the popularity of synthetic turf fields steadily increases so does the battle on the effect of the heat on the athletes who are playing on these fields vs. playing on natural grass fields. Due to these “heated” conversations, much research has been done in years past that look at the effects of heat on artificial field turf and if cooling of the turf is possible.
Are the artificial turf fields hotter than the natural grass fields?
The simple answer here is yes – if we are talking about the actual synthetic fibers that make up the grass portion of the field.
Studies have shown that the most significant heat increases were seen on the green synthetic fibers with temperatures 50-60 degrees hotter than the recorded air and natural grass temperatures.
If we are asking the same question, but rather in regards to the difference of the air temperature due to the rebound effect of the heat off the turf vs. the natural grass the answer is a much smaller yes.
A study named “Evaluation of the Environmental Effects of Synthetic Turf Fields” conducted by Milone and MacBroom, concluded that at 2 feet above the surface, the average temperature difference between artificial turf and natural grass was only 4 degrees and at 5 feet above the surface, the difference between the two surfaces was only 0.1 degrees.
How can we cool down the artificial turf fields?
As of today, there are no scientifically proven methods, whether it be color of turf pellets or water irrigation systems, that have been shown to reduce artificial turf field temperatures drastically or for an extended period of time.
Due to the lack of evidence in any of the tested products or procedures, the MLS does not have any policies or procedures that must be followed league wide.
Although there is not an MLS league wide policy that is followed, I can say that many teams wet their fields down prior to game time in hopes of reducing the temperatures slightly.
With this being said though I would also like to point out that the watering down of the field has been shown to decrease the surface temperature by about 10 degrees and after 20 minutes the temperature begins to rise again.
What should coaches, parents and athletes do pre-, post- and during games with elevated temperatures?
There is no magic answer when it comes to reducing the effects that elevated temperatures can have on the body or a magic cure (as of yet) that will reduce artificial field turf temperatures. My advice for exercise in the summer heat is simple and consists of 4 basic principles:
My advice for exercise in the summer heat is simple and consists of 4 basic principles:
1) Pre-hydrate, Hydrate, Rehydrate – Our bodies are made up of about 60% water and we crave it, especially during periods of high intensity activity or extended heat exposure.
Water consumption should begin 72 hours before activity by drinking six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
During activity, one should drink six ounces of fluid – preferably water – every 15 minutes and should then rehydrate following activity with 32 ounces of liquid per 1 pound of fluid loss.
2) Use Sunscreen – Although the sun has great benefits, it can be dangerous if we don’t apply sunscreen. Understanding the sun protection factor, or SPF, when buying or applying is crucial to ensure correct application.
The SPF rating is a measure of the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that will reach the skin. For example, SPF 30 means that 1/30th of the burning radiation will reach the skin.
To determine the effectiveness of sunscreen multiply the SPF factor by the length of time it takes for an individual to burn without sunscreen. It is also important to remember that the higher the number on the sunscreen doesn’t mean that it will remain on the skin any longer than the SPF with a lower number and it must be continually applied as directed.
3) Clothing choice – One should wear loose fitted, light weight and light colored clothing when exercising in the sun. The light color will help reflect the sun, the light weight material will aid in quick evaporation of sweat and the loose fit will allow for air to circulate between the skin and the material.
4) Time of day – If possible, complete all strenuous exercise in the morning or the evening.
The sun is strongest from 11 a.m. until about 3 p.m., so turf field temperatures will be the hottest during those times.
If you have a game scheduled for right in the middle of the afternoon and you notice your feet burning try an extra layer of socks and find a shady spot to rest when not in play.