Problems That Can Occur With An Artificial Sports Surface

Problems That Can Occur With An Artificial Sports Surface

A synthetic sports surface, artificial grass, artificial clay, or tarmacadam and acrylic can suffer from a number of problems if not maintained properly:

Infill Compaction

Infill compaction is the result of the fill being forced together overtime through use and the prevailing weather conditions.  The void space between the infill is reduced which in turn reduces the space between the fill particles for water to pass through the system.  This leads to poor drainage which will lead to loss of use and promote the growth of moss and algae on a surface.  Compaction will also create a hard surface reducing player comfort and traction (increasing slipping), alter the playing characteristics of the surface, and reduce the ability for the carpet pile tip to be supported resulting in ‘Pile Fold’.

Compacted Infill

Infill Contamination

Infill contamination can be via a number of sources such as broken down carpet fibres, air born debris, tennis ball fluff, vegetation, moss and algal spores, or other foreign debris.

ContaminationContamination carried to the constructed fall

 The infill acts as a filter within the artificial grass system and filters out the contamination particles.  The contamination particles fill the void space between the infill eventually blocking them up to form a hard crust in the upper levels.  This reduces and eventually seals up the surface preventing drainage and causing the surface to flood.  This leads to further problems such as algal growth and a condition known as ‘Algal Squidge’.  It also acts in conjunction and in a similar manner to infill compaction to alter the playing characteristics of the surface and reduces traction and player comfort.

Astro Turf Contamination Removed From Infill

Correct Infill Levels

It is important to maintain the correct infill levels on a synthetic sports surface whether this be rubber infill for a 3G, sand infill for a sand dressed or sand filled system, or clay for a synthetic clay surface.  Too much infill and the surface will be slippery for users and the performance especially in relation to ball bounce or roll will be affected.  It may even excessively wear the carpet pile.  Too little and again the traction may be reduced, the performance affected, and the artificial grass pile will ‘fold’ or bend over.

Too Much InfillAll Weather Pitch with too much sand infill

Pile Fold

If left unsupported the carpet pile can bend or fold over.  This is most common in the high wear areas around goal mouths, tennis base lines and volley areas, short corner areas, and entrances.  The infill can compact to reduce its level therefore leaving the top of the pile unsupported.  This can lead to a loss of traction or increased slipping, and in certain circumstances lead to the carpet pile breaking at the point at which it is left unsupported.

Flooding and Ponding

A surface will lose its porosity over time as a result of excessive infill contamination and compaction.  The ability of water to pass through the artificial grass or synthetic clay system will reduce because of compaction and contamination.  Under such circumstances it is advisable to have the surface Rejuvenated.

Poor draining synthetic grass tennis courts

Moss & Algae

Moss and algae will continually attempt to contaminate a synthetic grass and synthetic clay surface with the fill providing a perfect seed bed for the spores.  Moss and algae are not only unsightly but will contribute to a reduction in drainage, which will further promote its growth, and also make the surface slippery.  In severe cases an algal condition commonly known as ‘Algal Squidge’ will form to produce a dark green slime which is very hazardous and can render the facility unsafe.

Slime on an all weather pitch

Moos and Algae on Artificial Turf

Surface, Joint, & Play Line Damage

Artificial surfaces can suffer from joint and play line separation or loss of adhesion together with wilful damage.  Any damage to the surface will affect the playing characteristics of the surface and may render the surface unsafe with trip hazards or ‘jumps’ for ball roll especially with regard to hockey.

Some joints will loose their adhesion allowing infill to migrate beneath.  This will lift or raise the joint allowing more infill to migrate beneath and be open to further damage by the action of users.  Joint repairs or patches are never as secure as the original carpet and therefore it is essential to repair the joint before it has become too damaged.