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Association of artificial turf and concussion in competitive contact sports: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Frank O' Leary1,
  2. Nic Acampora2,
  3. Fiona Hand3,
  4. James O' Donovan1
  1. 1Department of Performance Medicine, Sport Ireland Institute, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2Faculty of Life Sciences, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff, UK
  3. 3Department of Surgery, St. Vincent's University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Frank O' Leary; foleary{at}


Objective To determine the incidence of head injuries and concussion in contact sports, comparing natural grass with artificial turf surfaces.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis via the RevMan V.5.3 software.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies All studies describing competitive contact sports played on both natural grass and artificial turf. The primary outcome measured was occurrence of head injury and concussion.

Data sources The databases include PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, Medline and Sport Discus. The last search took place on 23 May 2019. The Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale evaluated the methodological quality of the selected studies with a funnel plot designed to determine publication bias. Study screening and data extraction were performed by two independent reviewers.

Results Initial screening generated 42 publications, with 12 meeting criteria for inclusion. Eight studies described concussion only. The rate ratio (RR) of head injury and concussion was less on artificial turf compared with natural grass (RR=0.89, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.04) as was the rate ratio of concussion only (RR=0.72, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.89).

Conclusion Analysis of published data demonstrates a decreased incidence of head injury and concussion when contact sports are played on artificial turf. This difference was most marked for sports such as rugby and American football. However, artificial turf has no association with the incidence of head injury or concussion while playing soccer.

  • concussion
  • contact sports
  • environment
  • head
  • injuries

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  • Contributors FO and NA contributed to the development of the research question. FO performed the literature search. FO and FH performed the study selection, methodological quality and assessment, data extraction and methodological quality assessment. JO and FH edited the review. All authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon request.