David Chao, MD: Do Players Have A Legit Beef About MetLife Turf?

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In Sunday’s victory over the Jets, the 49ers suffered multiple key injuries and blame was placed on the new MetLife turf post game. “Fix this trash met life turf’ tweeted Arik Armstead.

Nick Bosa tore his ACL, Jimmy Garoppolo left with a high ankle sprain, Raheem Mostert has a reported knee MCL sprain, Solomon Thomas is hoping to avoid ACL tear and Tevin Coleman is headed for knee MRI. The unfortunately irony is the 49ers are slated to play on the exact same field next week vs the Giants.

Do the player complaints hold water?

The field is newly installed this offseason. San Francisco players talked about the field being “sticky.” There is no question one’s foot stuck in the turf is a recipe for injury. There is a higher risk of ACL tear like having your ski bindings cranked tighter. There is a potentially higher chance of high ankle sprain, Achilles tear, Lisfranc sprain and turf toe. I have not been on this new field personally but new fields sometimes have different coefficients of friction before the original manufacturer coating is worn off. I have experienced complaints both ways about other new turf being more slippery and more sticking initially before settling in.

Last week the Steelers topped the Giants on the same field and there were no post-game complaints. However, Pittsburgh’s starting right tackle tore his ACL and James Conner sprained his ankle (although mild and not high ankle). Right guard Stefen Wisniewski injured his pec but that can’t be blamed on the turf. The Giants did not suffer any signficant injuries.

The new MetLife artificial turf is known as “UBU Speed S5-M” which has highten artificial fiber with a 70% rubber and 30% sand infill system aimed at staying even across the playing surface. The only other NFL stadium with the same surface is in Cleveland and was installed in May 2018. I am not aware of any complaints from the Browns or their opponents in last two years.

Typically for East Coast trips, West coast teams will travel on Friday and hold a walk through practice at the stadium on Saturday where players can test out the turf and best cleats to wear. I am not sure that has happened here give the pandemic. Most teams no longer have three-day trips with the new COVID protocols. 

The 49ers actually requested the chance to play back to back at MetLife. Staying out East last season, they started the season last year 2-0 on the back-to-back East Coast games where they beat the Bucs and then stayed in Youngstown, Ohio, before beating the Bengals. The wanted to mimic that start and as the averaged 44.5 points in those two games.

I am sure the league will investigate. There are ways to measure how tacky a field is and to quantify shoe/surface interface. Sometimes overcoming the mental worry is as big as the physical issue.

Update: The NFL has weighed in on the subject.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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  1. Time of day? The first game was at night, second during the day. Hotter surface might make it stickier? And the Giants suffered the worst possible injury this week, Barkley knee tear, all the way out on Chicago far away from this new turf. I don’t see how it’s possible to attribute these injuries to the turf when there’s so many other factors in this weird season that could be contributing factors.

  2. Grass fields are great, but they don’t hold up as the season wears on for outdoor stadiums. I think in the long run, the synthetic field is the better choice for Jersey. These issues remind me of Bill Belichick and what he thinks about all week- not just when he shows up for the pre-game.

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