School district thinks investing in artificial turf could help prevent concussions

“The Pit” at Jackson (MO) Senior High and the school’s soccer field could soon have their natural grass replaced with artificial turf. School leaders said a major goal of the effort is to further prevent the possibility of concussions when athletes fall to the ground.

The Superintendent at Jackson R-2 School District, John Link, said student safety in the classroom and on the field is their number one priority, and that installing new shock absorbent turf is just another opportunity to make things safer.

“Our coaching staff, we spend an enormous amount of time teaching student-athletes how to tackle the right way, how to do the things correctly so that they limit the opportunity to get hurt,” Link said. “We’re blessed at Jackson to have our own trainers on the sidelines to take athletes through concussion protocol, and to have those experts relieves that liability and pressure.”

The estimated $1.8 million project includes installing shock pads underneath the turf on both fields and putting new fencing and a concrete walkway around the perimeter of the football field.

“We are going to expend a little bit more money then we normally would,” Link said. “We want our players, our coaches and the community to be proud of the facility. If it saves one student from having a concussion it’s worth it. If it doesn’t we’ve done all we could.”

As a paramedic, Christina Dagenhardt, with Cape County Private Ambulance, has responded to numerous concussions at sporting events and thinks it’s excellent that school leaders, coaches, and trainers are more aware of it and are trying to prevent head injuries from occurring.

“Before we just kind of blew them off. Oh, you got hit in the head no big deal,” Dagenhardt said. “But this can put a real impact on people’s lives especially children. They are under 18, they’re still developing. All those can have long-term effects on the brain. Issues that most kids don’t think about dementia, and learning disabilities.”

Link also said that the synthetic turf typically has a warranty of about eight years and that the underlying shock pad can last 12-to-15-years.

“If and when the turf has to be replaced, the shock pad doesn’t have to be replaced if it’s in good standing and it will get tested,” Link said. “There are a lot of underlying things we will be able to eliminate and allows us to take the maintenance guys who spend the bulk of their time in the Fall on those fields to keep our other facilities up and running smoother.”

The two turf installations are being put out to bid right now, and Jackson’s school district is hoping to get final approval for the project from the Board of Education in March. If all of it goes through Link hopes to start construction soon.

“If we can capture this slow season for these construction folks in this area, and hopefully get a little better price,” Link said. “Get the football field started immediately. Try to have that done by the end of May, and then finish up the soccer field before the boys season starts in the Fall.” – by Nathan Ellgren, KFVS