WHAT ARE SHOCKPADS?
I call them an insurance policy. Why? Because a shockpad is there to provide a permanent shock-absorbing layer within the artificial turf system. It is an underlayment which sits between the substrate* and artificial grass. Normally it provides a minimum guaranteed shock absorption value when tested using an AAA device.** It, therefore, influences the performance of the turf over the pad in the long-term.
A few big-ticket items to be aware of:
- Impact attenuation to protect the athlete and reduce recovery time
- Inbuilt safety over time as artificial turf system ages
- Drainage to accelerate dewatering of the field during inclement weather.
THE TYPES OF SHOCKPADS AVAILABLE
I always rank shockpads into the following categories:
- Designed for sport
- Designed for something else but used for sport
- Designed for a mattress or something but not sport
The most valuable products are those designed for sport. Others that have sport as a subsidiary sales line can be a useful addition to the sports technical performance of an artificial turf -- but they need to be assessed properly for their performance within the turf system and the durability of performance over a life cycle.
Needless to say, the price is a filter here and very cheap shock pads are not normally designed for sports.
WHY YOU SHOULD INVEST IN ONE
You should invest in a shockpad because players select them by default. In a blind study of soccer players regularly exposed to a variety of artificial soccer specific surfaces, the players overwhelmingly chose a field which incorporated a shockpad as their preferred surface. Similarly, they rated fields without shockpads as the worse fields.
Normally shockpads last two life cycles of turf and good quality shockpads are guaranteed for two life cycles of turf. Albeit the capital outlay can be significant, the investment should be amortized over 20 years. Great shockpads have long warranties and can be recycled.
THEY GUARD AGAINST POOR MAINTENANCE PRACTICES
We all know proper maintenance can be a hit-or-miss with community fields. A shockpad can guard against fields becoming so compacted they become a danger to athletes, whether they are training or in a competition. Cyclic annual tests have proven fields which incorporate a shockpad retain performance properties for soccer year-on-year longer than fields which have no shockpad. This is backed up by both laboratory and field studies.
If a pitch is designed correctly, it's difficult to get sued. Shockpads often mean a field can be kept within the stringent requirements set by FIFA, World Rugby and/or the FIH -- not only for longer, but at what is considered to be a safer level for athletes. Litigation is a fact of life, but you can reduce risk by getting a shockpad installed on your field.
SHOCKPADS ARE GOOD FOR THE PLAYERS
The most important issue, of course, is to recognise the importance of player welfare. We are becoming increasingly aware of the influence the field of play has on short and long-term player health. We simply cannot endorse a situation where we are damaging athletes. Whenever we can reduce the risk of injury, it is our duty to do so. Find out if your field has a shockpad or insist on incorporating a shockpad into the refurbishment or design of your new field.
To find out more about shockpads, see Shockpads Working Group
*Substrate - Is the base, subbase, and asphalt layer the shock pad will be laid onto. A great example would be seen here -- underneath the shock pad is a leveling layer.
**AAA device - An artificial athlete which is used by test institutes to measure the shock absorption of artificial pitches. For more information see 5 Things You Need to Know About Force Reduction Testing.
Managing Director, Sports Labs Ltd.