Spatiotemporal variation of turfgrass sports fields and its influence on athletes' perceptions and injury occurrence
Straw, Chase M
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Within-field variations of natural turfgrass sports field properties occur due to foot traffic, field construction, management, and weather. Minimal studies have been conducted to better understand the influence of within-field variations on athletes’ perceptions and injury occurrence. Precision Turfgrass Management is a new concept that involves the application of management inputs only where, when, and in the amount needed to potentially mitigate within-field variability while fostering a more sustainable management approach. Currently, its application on sports fields has received little attention. Therefore, four studies were conducted using a wide array of quantitative and qualitative methods to 1) increase the understanding of the impact of within-field variability on athletes’ perceptions and ground-derived injury occurrence and 2) further the concept of Precision Turfgrass Management on sports fields. The first study found that athletes perceived within-field variations of turfgrass coverage and surface evenness to be most important. They expressed awareness of potential influences that variations could have, but not all made behavior changes. Those who reported changing did so with regard to athletic maneuvers and/or strategy, primarily for safety or context of play. The next study determined that an increased ground-derived injury occurrence happened in areas of significantly low turfgrass quality (P < 0.001) and high soil moisture (P < 0.05). Interestingly, most injuries occurring in significantly high or low areas of turfgrass quality, soil moisture, and surface hardness were along edges of high and low areas within the fields. The third study observed several significant relationships between measured properties, although significance did not always result in comparable spatial distributions and relationships were not always similar between fields of different soil textures. Lastly, the fourth study determined that soil moisture at the time of sampling can strongly influence site-specific management unit delineation and considerations should be made prior to sampling based on the objective. It is concluded that future studies evaluating athletes’ perceptions and injury occurrence on natural turfgrass sports fields should account for within-field variability. Key surface properties and suggested sampling strategies from each study may be useful for the progression and implementation of Precision Turfgrass Management on turfgrass sports fields.