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The problem of the safety of synthetic playing surfaces, as well as natural playing fields, is multifaceted. An important factor is the force generated when an athlete strikes the surface. Since this force is directly related to the total deformation of the surface-athlete system during the impact, the compressibility of the surface is a key factor to be considered in surface design and in testing of both new and old surfaces. Using a mathematical model, these concepts are developed in this study. The results show that the accelerations produced during an impact are greater for smaller masses, and equations are derived which indicate the appropriate scaling of the drop height needed to make impacts with small test masses that are equivalent to those of human body weights. The author suggests that testing of playing surfaces should not be limited to measurement of force impulses at a fixed impact momentum, which may be significantly less than the extremes encountered during use, but should include values revealing the total compressibility of the surface.
playing fields, sports biomechanics, impact absorption, injury, safety testing
Professor, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA