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FieldTurf lessons for Bears, Vikings

The season-ending injury to New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon comes at an interesting time for two NFC North teams.

The Minnesota Vikings' landlord is enmeshed in a lawsuit with the manufacturer of FieldTurf artificial surfaces, the same surface Hixon was practicing on Tuesday when his right knee crumpled. The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, recently decided against replacing the grass at Soldier Field with FieldTurf or a similar product because of safety concerns.

Hixon has been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Giants safety Antrel Rolle told ESPNNewYork.com that Hixon's leg got caught in the turf just before he fell.

It's not unusual for players to complain about artificial turf, even the newer in-fill version that includes rubber pellets to make it softer. But it's interesting to note that when the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission reviewed bids for its upcoming turf replacement project, it chose a lesser-known company that submitted a higher bid because the Vikings, like the Bears, were concerned about the safety of FieldTurf.

The Minnesota/St. Paul Business Journal describes the situation in detail, noting the commission plans to pay Sportexe $495,000 for the project even after FieldTurf bid $458,561. FieldTurf is suing the commission for the way it conducted the bidding process. Here is a key passage:

The MSFC, however, says it rejected FieldTurf's bid after the Vikings expressed concerns about the safety of the company's product -- the main reason for replacing the Dome's existing turf in the first place. Therefore, the commission opted for Sportexe, which provided the second-lowest bid at $495,000; the Irving, Texas-based company also installed the turf at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. "Medically, FieldTurf has proven to increase risk and severity of injury in NFL players," the Vikings said, according to documents filed by the commission in response to FieldTurf's lawsuit.

A recent study showed that knee injuries were 88 percent more likely to occur on FieldTurf than natural grass. (Ask Green Bay Packers defensive back Will Blackmon about that one.) To be fair to FieldTurf, that study didn't include any other brands. There is no evidence that its product is different from that of any other in-fill company. But whether it's coincidence or otherwise, half of our teams have made a point to go in another direction this offseason.