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Monday, 11 April 2022 11:43

How to ensure the safety and quality of padel courts: UNE standard 147301 Featured

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Rafael Mengual Ortolá, Laura Magraner Llavador, Begoña Martínez Climent, Ricard Barberà i Guillem, Juan Carlos González García

Instituto de Biomecánica (IBV) Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). Edificio 9. Valencia (Spain)

 

Padel tennis is one of the sports that has become increasingly popular in recent decades. The European Committee CEN/TC 217 - Surfaces for Sports has recently adopted the Spanish standard as a reference on which to draw up a European standard. UNE 147301 is a mandatory standard for manufacturers, sports facility managers, installers and players, when it comes to establishing the quality of artificial grass surfaces for padel facilities, both from a technical and from a sporting perspective. Developed by AENOR's Standardization Technical Committee 147, which focuses on sports surfaces, it represents a before and after in the world of padel.

The purpose of this article is to answer the following questions:
What criteria determine the quality and safety of the artificial turf on which padel is played?
What technical and sporting characteristics must an artificial turf surface have if it is to be used for padel?

INTRODUCTION

Padel tennis, an increasingly popular sport across Europe

Based on an analysis of data extracted from the sports statistics yearbooks of recent years, drawn up by the Ministry of Culture and Sport, it is clear that padel has grown steadily over the last decade (see Figure 1), close to 10% per year. This increase can also be seen in the number of federated clubs, which increased from 1,258 to 1,514 from 2019 to 2021 alone.

Figure 1. Evolution of the number of Padel Federation membership cards (2011- 2021)[1].

[1] Gender-segregated data have not yet been published for 2021.

The attractiveness of padel and the benefits it brings to those who play the sport have been key to the growth of its popularity, as has the increase in the number of venues and spaces dedicated to it. 

It is worth mentioning the boom that padel is experiencing in Europe, where new countries are rapidly joining the more traditional exponents of this sport, such as Spain and Argentina.

Experience in the use of artificial grass in padel courts

The use of artificial grass in padel follows the example of other sports such as rugby, soccer or field hockey where it has been widely used for a considerable length of time. But, what makes the installation of artificial turf in padel courts so successful?

Although people played on cement in the early days of padel, artificial grass has long become established as the standard surface, not only in preference to cement, but also to any other type of synthetic or natural surface. In fact, artificial grass has for some time now been the most widely used material on padel courts. The qualities of artificial grass that have led to this switch are the following:

• Related to playability: the ball moves more slowly, bounces less, the points take longer and it is easier to reach all points of the court (thanks to the fact that the game has become a little slower). It allows people to play in the rain, as it is less slippery.

• Related to the comfort and safety of the players: as it is softer, the surface generates less muscle overload which in turn results in a lower percentage of injuries. It also reduces the physical fatigue of the player.

• Maintenance conditions Although artificial grass requires a series of special cares that cement does not require - which means that it is more expensive to maintain - it is significantly less than that required by a natural grass court.

UNE standard 147301 provides more safety for padel players

The design of safe environments for players must be a priority. Artificial turf, certified by UNE standard 147301, for padel courts, contributes to this function. The ability of this type of sports surface to cushion footfall provides significant benefits:

• In the short term, the player will feel comfortable during the course of the game, not to mention the fact that it reduces the risk of injury or being hurt in a possible fall.

• In the long term, the joints of the lower limb suffer less impact on every step, which contributes to a better overall condition and less wear and tear of the joints.

Artificial turf on padel courts, more playability and attractiveness

A safe playing field such as that provided by artificial turf allows players to enjoy themselves more and take more risks which in turn means that the public can enjoy themselves more.

On the other hand, one of the most important aspects in any ball sport is the way the ball bounces on the playing surface. It is essential that the surface cushions and allows the ball to bounce correctly. Not only must the right turf be chosen and properly installed by professionals, but it must also have the right amount of infill to make the surface uniform and playable. Some systems include an elastic base layer to improve performance.

Another advantage of outdoor padel courts fitted with artificial turf is that they drain better on rainy days, avoiding the appearance of puddles and thereby allowing you to get back on court much earlier than any other surface.

A necessary standard 

The origin of and the need for this Spanish standard lie in the growing interest in padel and the proliferation of new facilities, together with the need to renew the surfaces of existing facilities that have exceeded their useful life. As technical coordinator of the CTN 147 standardization committee (Sport. Sporting Equipment and Facilities) and in association with the Spanish National Sports Council (CSD) and the sector’s most important manufacturing companies, the Instituto de Biomecánica (IBV) has made a decisive contribution to the drafting of UNE standard 147301, the purpose of which is to establish the technical requirements that must be met by artificial turf sports surfaces intended for the practice of padel.  

The Spanish standard UNE 147301:2018 contemplates two types of tests: laboratory tests, which include product identification, and “in situ” tests. The tests are carried out to ensure that the product’s sporting performance properties as evaluated in the laboratory can be reproduced on the court itself and identified in accordance with the technical data sheet issued by the manufacturer of the material.

The laboratory test analyzes the technical and sporting function of artificial turf for the practice of padel.

The technical function includes those properties that ensure that the turf will maintain its performance over a certain period of time depending on the environment and the intended use. Some of the criteria for testing artificial turf are the fiber or filament’s resistance to uprooting, resistance to artificial aging such as color fastness, the tensile strength of the filament, water permeability, the resistance of the seams, resistance to wear and tear, and the tensile strength of the mat.

On the other hand, the sports function evaluates those properties of the turf that reduce the risk of injury and, at the same time, provide optimal conditions for the player from the perspective of sports performance or the spectacular nature of the game. Within this group we make a distinction between player-turf and ball-turf interaction. The criteria used to evaluate player-turf interaction are shock absorption - which has to do with the turf’s capacity to reduce the stresses the player suffers when running or jumping - and resistance to rotation - which has to do with the grip between the soles of the shoes and the turf-, which are determining aspects for player safety and for the prevention of possible injuries. The criterion used to evaluate ball-turf interaction is the vertical ball bounce.

FROM BIDDING TO MAINTENANCE. KEY ELEMENTS

It is worth highlighting how important it is that sports managers should be aware of the need to ensure that their facilities are in good condition and maintained as these are key elements, especially in an area that has such important implications for the promotion of the practice of sport, with the corresponding benefits in terms of health and the promotion of the social fabric. If they are properly cared for and maintained, padel courts, like other artificial grass facilities, can have a useful life of 10 years. That is why it is important to pay close attention to the details of a facility whose cost, based on the tender prices published on the state contracting portal, can range from €60,000 - €85,000 for two courts, depending on whether it is a refurbishment or a new installation, and whether or not it includes accessories such as bleachers.

what phases should we consider in the life cycle of an artificial turf facility?

The first phase focuses on defining what the needs of the new facility or the one to be renovated actually are. The second phase should promote its proper use and exploitation. Finally there is the phase that takes in those activities that monitor the functional conditions of the facility in order to determine its end of life and to be able to anticipate its renewal. Table 1 identifies the phases and administrative tasks for each set of activities related to the product life cycle, as well as the IBV’s value proposition.

Table 1. Activities related to the life cycle of artificial turf facilities and the IBV’s value proposition

how to go about choosing artificial turf?  

The characteristics of artificial turf are determined by the product data sheet provided by the manufacturer. It identifies the name of the manufacturer, the commercial name of the product and also whether or not it has been approved in accordance with the UNE standard 147301. The technical report certifying approval in accordance with the standard must be obtained.

Certain variables cover a more aesthetic aspect, such as the color of the fiber (a single color, two-tone - green, blue...), or a more descriptive aspect (fiber in an oval or diamond section), although these are not “a priori” determining factors in terms of the technical performance of the turf. Certain aspects do however have a direct influence on the performance of the material, such as the height or thickness of the filament, the density of the stitches, or the proportion of infill material and whether or not it is combined with an elastic layer.

In any case, any comparison between different artificial turf products must be made on the basis of the test results of the surface as a whole, understood as the carpet, infill and elastic layer, if applicable. If it is done individually on the basis of the characteristics included in the product data sheet, we would run the risk of rejecting quality products. A comparison of each technical parameter is useful to check whether the artificial grass that has been installed does in fact correspond to what was submitted in the tender by the installation company. Such a comparison should be carried out in the laboratory by means of comparative product identification tests.

The IBV Value Proposition

The IBV has amassed extensive experience in the field of sports surfaces in general, and artificial turf in particular. It also has a wide range of services that can be adapted to the needs of our clients, no matter whether they are manufacturers, sports facility managers (public and private) or sports clubs. Our main lines of work are the following:

• Advice for the development of new products for the practice of padel

• Ongoing consultancy for the improvement of existing products in relation to such aspects as playability, safety and durability

• Advice for sport facility managers on how to select a suitable product

CONCLUSIONS

The current number of padel players, in addition to its significant growth, makes it necessary to create and apply safety and performance standards that guarantee the quality of the product and its installation. UNE standard 147301 should therefore be a tool for both manufacturers and installers as well as for promoters and those responsible for the facility.

The IBV makes available to all agents its experience as a product testing and sports surfaces laboratory, adapting to the needs of the different agents involved in padel courts, whether they are manufacturers, installers or public sports facility managers. The life cycle of the facility is also taken into account. The IBV thus positions itself as a reliable partner with an offer that is tailored and adapted to the needs and challenges posed by each agent involved in a padel court.

REFERENCES 

Bernardino Javier Sánchez-Alcaraz Martínez. History of Padel. Materials for the History of Sport. No. 11 (2013) Pages 57-60. e-ISSN: 2340-7166. Accessed on 08/11/2021 http://polired.upm.es/index.php/materiales_historia_deporte/article/view/4140/4332

CTN 147 Committee Sport. Equipment and Sports Facilities(une.org). https://www.une.org/encuentra-tu-norma/comites-tecnicos-de-normalizacion/comite?c=CTN 147

 Filip Björn

https://padelalto.com/2021/06/02/padel-is-taking-over-europe-first-out-belgium-it-is-really-madness

Public sector procurement platform in Spain https://contrataciondelestado.es/wps/portal/plataforma

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2021

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:b24c68ad-75ff-48d0-aa1f-d57075f22e64/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2021.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2020

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:47414879-4f95-4cae-80c4-e289b3fbced9/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2020.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2019

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:dc406096-a312-4b9d-bd73-2830d0affb2d/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2019.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2018

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:4f7cf021-9098-42ad-a528-c2ef295540a3/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2018.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2017

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:72c0db21-8dde-4b37-97ed-f56e779583fb/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2017.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2016

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:6a410fc9-30c0-47de-8053-721a05ea14aa/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2016.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2015

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:0a7a91f4-5fa6-4220-bfbf-b3d25804ad66/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2015.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2014

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:1619eb75-e985-45b3-8ce0-73e43498effa/anuario-de-estadisticas-deportivas-2014.pdf

Sports Statistics Yearbook 2013

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/dam/jcr:69ccde4f-ec33-442c-8b24-ea51e36af627/aed-2013.pdf

Tom Murray (2020) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/evolution-impact-padel-europe-tom-murray/?trk=related_artice_The evolution & impact of padel in Europe_article-card_title

UNE/147301:2018 Artificial turf sports surfaces for the practice of paddle tennis. Requirements. https://www.une.org/encuentra-tu-norma/busca-tu-norma/norma?c=N0060508

World Padel Tour

https://www.worldpadeltour.com/

 

 

Read 159 times Last modified on Monday, 11 April 2022 12:30



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