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The Four Important Qualities That Make An Excellent Sports Surface

If you are looking into the various sporting surface options out there, there are four key qualities that you must consider before making a purchasing decision. Which surface type to install will obviously depend on the activity being performed and who will be using it. Safety must always be a priority, particularly when dealing with elite athletes where injury prevention is vital, or younger kids who are likely to experience more falls. Furthermore, an optimal surface to achieve maximum performance is something that you will want to see a return in investment from.

ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) F2772 is the international standard specification for athletic performance properties of indoor sports floor systems. It measures the following four key standards for the suitability and safety of sporting activities, and can act as a great guide when deciding on what surface to purchase:

Shock Absorption

Perhaps the most apparent consideration must be given to the cushioning or impact absorption of your surface. Force reduction as it is known in the sports flooring industry, is the surface’s ability to reduce the force of impact on it. It is important to note that force reduction is associated with the passive phase of landing, which means in the context of an athlete’s running gait, will be from the initial heel impact to the moment resistance is applied at the beginning of the propulsion (active) phase.

Surfaces with a low force reduction tend to be harder and may result in joint injuries or stress fractures over time, as most of the energy will be returned to the athlete. There is also the added risk of serious impact injuries such as concussions, fractures, or dislocations upon fall. Softer surfaces with a high force reduction may well decrease the likelihood of impact-related injuries, although they can be associated with muscular fatigue injuries. They may also have an adverse effect on dynamic performance as most of the athlete’s energy is absorbed by the surface.

Some examples of approximate force reduction:

Force reduction values for the ASTM F2772 classification of indoor sports systems are divided into five different categories which help understand the appropriate level for the particular activity to which it should be related. There is also a minimum value of 10% required by any surfaces designed for indoor activity when tested by this standard:

Foot Stability

Vertical Deformation is the technical term used to describe how the surface deforms under load, and how this, in turn, can affect the foot stability of the athlete. A surface with extreme deformation properties may result in rotational lower limb injuries due to the relationship with torque levels during pivoting. High deformation is associated with unsteady or wobbly foot positioning, whereas low deformation can lead to impact-related injures due to insufficient give in the surface.

Vertical deformation differs from force reduction in that it takes into account the deflection of the surface during the entire impact of both the passive and active response periods (see above chart). In terms of the athlete’s running gait, this will include where maximal force is applied during the push off phase.

The testing (measured as a range in millimeters) and parameters involved with vertical deformation will demonstrate acceptable results based on all 3 sports flooring types:

Surface Traction

Not to be confused with stability (which is how the surface deforms under pressure), slip/skid resistance, surface finish effect, and coefficient of friction are all common terms that describe how much traction (friction measured using footwear) the surface offers. Optimum levels of traction are an especially important consideration for surfaces such as wood, vinyl and rubber, where cleats are not an option, and multidirectional movements will be occurring. Competitive sprinting surfaces will tend to require greater resistance to sliding than court sports such as basketball. Normally measured in dry conditions, the sliding coefficient value should be between 80-110 in all categories:

Energy Return

How much energy a surface returns upon impact is referred to in a number of different ways including energy restitution, vertical rebound, or ball rebound. The test conducted in ASTM F2772 focuses on how this relates to basketball and specifically the mechanical property of the surface affecting the bounce of the ball. It is calculated by measuring the bounce height of the ball on the surface in question in comparison to the same ball bounce height on concrete. The result is expressed as a percentage. Of course, basketball is just one sport; however, the value can be attributed to other sports that use different inflated balls.

How does energy return affect athletic performance? Although useful, the ball rebound provided by ASTM F2772 is not specific to how a surface returns energy to humans, for example to improve jump height or acceleration. There is a debate between experts on how this can be measured accurately and from a marketing point of view it can be a desirable figure to have. Separate testing procedures outside if ASTM F2772 must be carried out to arrive at a value that can be used for the general energy restitution of a given surface.

Testing procedures differ regionally, mainly due to the differing global sporting markets and marketing strategies employed. In Europe where Soccer dominates, they tend to use a field-testing AAA (Advanced Artificial Athlete) method as opposed to the traditional hardcourt AA (Artificial Athlete) testing methods in the US. Despite the different testing methods, there is great harmony in the standards required for the two methods.

Other Things to Consider

Surface Durability

A quality sports surface must be able to withstand a large number of heavy multidirectional impacts, day in day out. A common measure for this is the tensile strength which looks at the force required to pull something to a point where it breaks apart.

Respiratory Health

VOC emissions from the surface are something to consider, particularly with facilities where there may not be good air circulation.

Acoustic Performance

For smaller indoor facilities with dry walls or open doorways this should be a consideration. Certain surface types are better at reducing noise transfer due to their acoustic absorption qualities.

Final Word

Testing standards for ASTM F2772 lean towards the needs of the North American sporting industry. Previously, floors were manufactured to meet European committee standard needs. As a globally recognized leader with more than 30,000 of the world’s experts spread around 135 different countries, there are more than 12,000 ASTM standards used today. Despite the different testing standards used globally, ASTM F2772 is the most widely used and recognized international testing standard for athletic performance of indoor sports surfaces, and the four key qualities mentioned above should be at the forefront of any decision maker looking to install a quality sports surface.

At Rubcorp, we take pride in providing the ultimate in standout flooring systems that are ASTM F2772 tested and much more! Not only aesthtically stunning, our Performance Line provides all of the key attributes for improved athletic performance, whilst making no compromize on safety or durability. And more!… The quality of rubber in our product not only vastly reduces noise transfer, it is also highly anti-microbial by nature and is incredibly easy to maintain. Still not convinced? Contact me via email. I will be delighted to explain more!

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Global Sales Executive, Rubcorp Distribution LLC.

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