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Grass Field Dangers in Winter

Take care when playing on frozen turf

SUNDAY, Feb. 22, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Thinking of playing some touch football this winter? You may want to check out the condition of the grass first.

For sports that extend into winter, an early frost can make grass fields hard and dangerous. According to Colorado State University's Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, ice or frozen soil can increase the occurrence of sports injuries because the hard surfaces cause reduced footing.

"Ice is always a potential concern on athletic fields," says Tony Koski, an extension turf specialist at CSU. "It can be caused by a poorly designed surface or sub-surface drainage, traffic on snow and alternate melting/freezing cycles, especially in areas that receive some shade."

When there is snow and ice on the ground, foot traffic should be kept to a minimum to avoid compressing the snow into ice sheets. The risk of sports injury can be reduced if a field has proper cushioning.

According to Koski, turf managers can accomplish this by taking the following steps:

  • Remove loose snow and ice.
  • Spread sand or other gritty soil amendments to increase traction.
  • If the field has not yet frozen, the field manager may be able to cover it with a tarp to prevent freezing.
  • Make sure that divots are filled and level.

In the realm of professional sports, football franchises have been known to use heaters to inflate tarps with warm air. This creates an effective thermal barrier to protect the ground from freezing conditions, as well as snow and ice.

More information

See how our Canadian neighbors deal with football fields in the winter.

SOURCE: Tony Koski, Ph.D., extension turf specialist, department of horticulture and landscape architecture, Colorado State University
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