Many players complained (and perhaps still complain) that it is more tiring to play on an artificial turf pitch than on a natural one, so Mapei Sport researchers carried out a study to find out whether the energy cost of running changed according to the surface being played on.
The cost of running on natural grass and artificial turf surfaces dates back to 2011 but, even after more than 10 years, it is still interesting to see whether or not the sensation felt by the professional players who frequent the Varese Research Centre and, no doubt, by some of us too, even in a simple game with friends, is well-founded.
The aim of the study carried out by Professor Aldo Sassi with Alessandro Stefanescu, Paolo Menaspà, Andrea Bosio, Marco Riggio and Ermanno Rampinini was to compare the physiological response and in particular the metabolic cost of running during exercise at different intensities on three different surfaces: natural grass, artificial grass and an asphalt track. The 8 amateur football players involved in the research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research completed a total of 9 runs lasting 6′ each, at three set speeds, in a random order on the different surfaces. The characteristics of each running surface were evaluated by measuring the shock absorption and the standard vertical deformation, by means of a specific device called “artificial athlete” and used according to the FIFA protocol for the certification of playing surfaces.
The investigation did not reveal any significant differences between the two football pitches in natural and artificial grass, but a clear difference between them and the asphalt track which allowed the athletes to run with the lowest metabolic cost. The feeling reported by the players of a higher physical effort during matches played on artificial turf compared to natural grass does not seem to be supported either by a higher running cost or by a harder surface. Further studies are needed to understand the origin of the different sensations reported by players playing on the two surfaces.