An end to the House of Horrors?

Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images An all-too familiar sight…

In a post last month, we looked at the disturbing trend of season-ending injuries suffered at the Edward Jones Dome. How bad was it? The Rams IR’ed players after each of their first four home games, and every game thereafter saw a Rams player go down with an injury that led to lost games down the road. And this is hardly a trend that started this year…

“There also is a train of thought by some at Rams Park – coaches I’m speaking of – that the turf at the Edward Jones Dome is causing some problems. It currently is replaced every year because the technology isn’t there to remove Field Turf and store it after every season. Because of that the turf never really gets broken in before it’s replaced. (There simply aren’t that many football games played in the dome over a year’s time.) And because of that extra friction because the turf isn’t broken in, it could lead to more turf injuries. I believe the vast majority of ankle, foot, and leg injuries to the Rams occurred at the dome last year, not on the road.

P-D Live Chat, September 2008

Well, there’s good news on the horizon. Buried amidst the Shahid Khan stories and Las Vegas police reports is this golden nugget of good news for St Louis: Rams Will Have Permanent Surface at Dome.

An announcement is expected today that a new playing surface will be installed at the Edward Jones Dome that can be stored and used again in subsequent seasons…. Barring unexpected problems, the new field will be in place for the upcoming season.

— Bill Coats, Around the Horns — Feb 11, 2010

The full story, by Tim O’Neill of the Post-Dispatch, gives us more details, and more good news: Edward Jones Dome to Get New Turf for 2010 Season.

The turf, called Game Day 3-D, will be installed on giant rollers near the north end zone and rolled out for football. The dome had a rollout turf when it opened in 1995, but has had temporary turfs installed for each of the last four years.

Looking at the official product site, the turf itself has an innovation that I’ve never seen before — a simulated “root zone” that allows the turf to give side-to-side without warping. This should reduce the number of knee injuries to wide receivers and cornerbacks — the players that cut the sharpest turns, and are the ones who most often complain of the turf “grabbing” or “freezing” their feet mid-plant. Keenan Burton, Bradley Fletcher, Quincy Butler, Daniel Fells and linemen Chris Massey, Jason Brown and Roger Allen III all went down this way.

And doing a little research on Game Day 3-D uncovers this study by Michigan State University:

AstroTurf’s GameDay Grass 3D most closely replicated natural grass in a comparison of 16 types of synthetic and natural sports turf, based on the torque, force and friction generated by cleated athletic shoes.

It might seem like a small thing, but I believe this shows that, even in a time of transition, the Rams are committed to all the details of rebuilding — from the top down, and from the very surface of the playing field up.