Ever wonder why there are so many different surfaces that sports take place on? The surface a sport is played on effects the way the sport is played. Players who participate in sports that cross different types of surfaces have to adapt their game specifically to each surface. By changing surfaces, players run the risk of injury due to unfamiliarity with the surface they are on.


Hard courts are typically made from asphalt or concrete, with a layer of acrylic material over the top. This top layer of acrylic seals the court and helps to prevent the growth of moss and algae, while also giving the court a layer of cushion. The most commonly played sport on hard courts is tennis due to the way the court affects the ball. Unlike grass courts, there is a low amount of energy absorbed by the court, leading to the balls bouncing higher and allowing the player to put a spin on the ball. Tennis balls bounce better on a hard surface, and the speed of the ball’s rebound depends on how much sand is included in the top layer of the court. The more sand included in the surface of the court, the slower the ball will bounce due to the friction created. While the ball does better on hard surfaces, running on a hard surface creates damage to your joints. Repetitive action on a hard surface may lead to shin splints, stress fractures as well as ankle injuries. In the case of hard surfaces, your body has to absorb all of the impact whereas as softer surface absorbs some of the impact for you. Due to the texture and anti-slip pain that is sometimes used, hard court surfaces may lead to ankle injuries, especially in a sport that involves quick changes in direction. If you are playing on a hard surface and have weak ankles you may want to wear an ankle brace for extra support.


When it comes to sand courts, the most commonly played sport is volleyball. Sure players enjoy the sun but transitioning from a hard court to a sand court is difficult for even the pros. Because of the way the sand is distributed, players have to move across an uneven surface. Sand volleyball courts are smaller than hard courts, because sand is more difficult to run on. Whereas ankle injuries are more common on a hard surface, knee and back injuries are more prominent in players that are performing on a sand court. Ankle injuries may still occur but are less common. Volleyball requires quick movement and direction changes and knee injuries are more likely to occur because the surface of the court is constantly changing. Players may have time getting traction to change directions quickly without sinking into the sand. If you are playing on a sand court and have weak knees, you may want to wear a knee brace for extra support.


Grass courts are great for sports like tennis. Grass courts are the most traditional, but they require the most maintenance. Players have to adapt to the court type changing with each tournament. While grass courts provide a little more cushioning and is easier on the joints than a harder surface, players should still be wary of injury. Players have to be aware of divots and bumps that can affect the bounce of the ball. On a hard surface court it is easier to predict where the ball will bounce, but with the unpredictability of grass players may find themselves having to change direction quickly. Not only does the ball not bounce as well on a grass court as it does on clay or hard surfaces, often skidding or bouncing very low, but players also have a harder time keeping traction on grass courts. Especially if it has rained lately, the grass becomes very slippery when wet, and can lead to injuries. If you are heading out to a grass court and it’s rained in the past few days, be sure the court is dry and you are wearing good shoes that offer a strong grip on the grass to prevent knee or ankle injury.

Whether you play your sport on grass, hard surfaces, or sand be sure to follow safety precautions to prevent injuries and keep you playing the sport you enjoy. If you become injured, seek medical care through an urgent care provider or the emergency room.

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