Experts are investigating whether rugby players’ boots need to be altered to cope with artificial surfaces, as data shows a greater severity in the injuries suffered on 4G pitches compared with natural grass.
The annual audit of the professional game in England published yesterday shows the average injury suffered by a Premiership player on an artificial pitch requires him to take 37 days off, an absence that is now nine days longer than on grass.
The survey will make interesting reading for professional players in Scotland. Glasgow Warriors have played on a 4G surface at Scotstoun since 2016 and Edinburgh are scheduled to install an artificial pitch when they move into their new ‘Mini-Murrayfield’ stadium.
Of the 12 clubs in the English Premiership, a quarter – Newcastle, Saracens and Worcester – play on artificial pitches.
Dr Simon Kemp, the Rugby Football Union’s director of medical services, said “the fundamental difference is the lack of a divot” and that laboratory research on “traction release characteristics” might reveal the players have been wearing the wrong type of boots.”
Damian Hopley, chief executive of the English players’ association, said: “There isn’t a huge amount of love out there for the artificial pitches among the majority of our members. The study around boots and grip, and pitch maintenance, will see what improvements can be made.”
It is the second year running that the report, officially titled the Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project, has showed a significant increase in the severity of injuries sustained on artificial surfaces compared to natural grass. The new report uses data from last season.
Last year’s report, based on information from the 2016-17 season, said: “the incidence and burden of match injury on artificial turf was significantly higher than that of natural grass”.
Glasgow’s pitch was criticised last season by Scarlets who claimed their players had suffered burns and blisters during their Pro14 semi-final victory in May.
Coach Wayne Pivac said Scotstoun’s 4G pitch was “very bad”, Steff Evans said it was “shocking” and Johnny McNicholl says such surfaces should be “illegal”.
Pivac said players suffered blisters, sore feet and “a lot of bad burns”.
Glasgow Warriors insisted they were “entirely happy with” the playing surface and that it “is fully compliant with World Rugby’s performance specification”.