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STC Performance and Durability Guidelines for Shock Pads
With the rise in shock pad usage in synthetic turf sports field systems in North America, the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), the world’s largest organization dedicated solely to the synthetic turf industry, released the new STC Performance and Quality Guidelines for Shock Pads. These guidelines provide sports turf managers, field specifiers and facility owners with objective measures when specifying a shock pad and comparing the minimum performance and durability of different shock pads.
For designers and specifiers:
This guideline compares the performance of different shock pads in an objective way, and if appropriate, to allow the selection of a shock pad for a specific application.
For manufacturers and suppliers:
This guideline provides the minimum durability criteria to ensure that when a shock pad is incorporated into a synthetic turf system it will perform adequately for at least two lifecycles of the synthetic turf carpet.
For buyers and end users:
Shock pads typically come in two varieties. Pre-fabricated pads are factory made from foams, rubber or plastics and transported to the field to be installed on a prepared field base. Insitu shock pads (also commonly referred to as elastic layers) are mixed onsite from a blend of binders (normally polyurethane) and elastomeric granules (normally recycled tire granulate). They are laid with a paving machine onto the prepared base. Shock pads typically range from 5/16 inches to 1.5 inches in depth and are placed between the turf surface and stone base. For short pile carpets, the shock pad is typically laid on an asphalt base. In this guidance document, the STC encourages manufacturers of shock pads to have their products tested using the methods detailed, and include for certain properties minimum suggested guideline requirements.
The principal objective of a shock pad is to provide a permanent shock-absorbing layer within the synthetic turf system which provides a minimum level of impact protection to athletes running and falling onto the surface, irrespective of the type of synthetic turf laid over the shock pad, or its condition. For sports where a true ball rebound is important (e.g. soccer, field hockey, baseball, tennis, etc.), a shock pad can also assist with controlling how the ball bounces. For short pile carpets, the shock pad can be a key contributor to providing impact attenuation (which is the measure of the shock absorbing properties).
As performance testing for turf athletic fields has become more robust, shock pad usage has gained in popularity across North America. Shock pads are designed to assist in providing the sports performance and player protection properties that are required for the sport and athlete on the playing surface. They also aid the retention of these properties through the life of the playing surface.
It is very important for turf managers to consider that a shock pad forms part of the synthetic turf sports surfacing system and it is the performance of the total system that influences the athlete’s perception of a sports field. It also determines if it is providing the required levels of player protection and sports performance. Due to the different types of synthetic turf on the market, ranging from long pile (typically 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches) infilled surfaces that are typically used for football, soccer and rugby, to non-filled short pile surfaces (typically 0.5 inches) used for field hockey, there are many different shock pads, with differing performance characteristics available.
Some shock pads also offer multi-functional properties that are designed to assist in field performance. These include providing horizontal drainage and structural stability to the base, in a similar way to a paved asphalt layer. Poor drainage below the shock pad can cause pooling on the field, especially after heavy rainfall, or it can saturate and weaken the supporting materials in the aggregate base and subgrade. If you have questions, we recommend that you consult your field designer to determine whether a multi-functional shock pad is appropriate for your field. The STC maintains a list of field designers and architects in the STC Member Directory.
Other products, such as drainage cells, that are used in the construction of a synthetic turf field may also provide some characteristics of a shock pad. To meet the STC definition of a shock pad, however, these products should perform in accordance with the recommendations of these guidelines.
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