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Rain-Slicked Playing Fields Dripping With Hazards

If you can see your footprints on the field, save the game for a safer day

SATURDAY, May 31, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- When it comes to outdoor playing fields, heavy rains can equal dangerous playing conditions.

Using a field when it's too wet can ruin the grade, make "bad hop" holes and compact the soil in the turf areas, leading to unsafe playing conditions.

Wet surfaces can be slippery, causing athletes to fall. According to Grounds Maintenance Magazine, rain can also lead to compacted grounds -- meaning the turf comes up in chunks and can cause players to sustain groin, hamstring and other injuries.

Clay-based fields, which are common in the Midwest, are particularly vulnerable to compaction. Once way to check the playing surface is to go out on the fields with cleats on; if the cleats don't dig in, there's too much compaction.

What a field needs is proper aeration, a process by which the turf is opened up so oxygen and other nutrients can get down into the roots.

Aeration is recommended when fields are moist, not wet, for maximum penetration. After aeration, the field should be dragged with a heavy mat to break up soil cores and create a smooth surface.

Conventional wisdom says that if you can leave footprints on the field due to wetness, it's too wet to play. In the end, it would be better to reschedule the event to avoid turf damage and potential injury to players.

More information

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculosketal and Skin Diseases has more on sports injuries, particularly for kids.

SOURCE: Grounds Maintenance Magazine
Consumer News