Synthetic Turf Performance – Past, Present and Potential Future

Synthetic turf testing has remained relatively static within North America since the development and adoption of ASTM F1936 and Gmax. For years it was good enough for a synthetic field to meet the Gmax requirements established in F1936. However, in the relatively recent past many in the synthetic turf industry have lobbied for and promoted advanced testing to enhance the safety of synthetic turf fields, as well as to help them to better emulate the natural grass fields that they are replacing. ASTM appears to have reached a stalemate between those that want the tests to remain unchanged, and those that want to adopt new tests, and apply new performance limits. The market is already changing even though ASTM remains in a status-quo.

This page was developed specifically to explore advanced testing methods and how they can be used to guide the future of synthetic turf performance. However, before the future can be considered, everyone must have a solid understanding of the past and present as they relate to synthetic turf testing and performance. The information in this page was developed to help those assisting change, and to help those considered new performance properties to better understand what they seek to simulate and how they are applied to synthetic turf systems.

Reviewing the Past

ASTM F1936 was a significant advancement in the safety and performance of synthetic turf fields. ASET has been developing our own publication about the development of F1936, and during that process we reached out to Ed Milner a former member of ASTM F08, and one of the  people involved in writing it and navigating it through the ASTM approval process. Mr Milner, was kind enough to share a paper that he presented decades ago, that discussed the development of the Gmax test as it’s used today. ASET felt that preserving this information was important for future developers as much of the information from this time has already been lost. The link below contains Mr Milner’s article, and first person account of the history that led to the development of F1936 and the Gmax limits established within it.

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It has been 43 years since ASTM F355 was originally published by ASTM in 1976, and it’s been 21 years since ASTM first published the F1936 specification for impact attenuation of synthetic turf systems. As the market, and those at ASTM, consider how to move forward and modernize today’s standards and specifications, we need to first understand the past. As Dr Elliott found out, we have already lost a good deal of the historical foundation used by the developers of these two standards. This article was developed in part to document some of the key research and thoughts used in during the development of impact standards for synthetic turf. But it was also developed to serve in some fashion as an example of how new standards and specifications might be introduced to improve the comfort and safety of synthetic turf systems. This is the first of a 3 part series.

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It has been more than 20 years since ASTM F1936 and the G-max property were applied to synthetic turf systems. This document explores what has changed, and what has not, and the current status of impact attenuation testing of synthetic turf systems in North America. It briefly explores HIC and Lower extremity testing of synthetic turf fields that are slowly becoming more common in North America. This is the 2nd in a 3 part series.

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