There have been upgrades this offseason in Foxboro, including the installation of the new FieldTurf Duraspine PRO at Gillette Stadium.  Unfortunately the company who makes it appears to be taking some heat.

After the New York Giants recently lost wide receiver Domenik Hixon for the season, the Post is reporting that Court documents filed by the Vikings in a lawsuit involving the Metrodome cite “an NFL study that found the rate of anterior cruciate ligament injuries is 88 percent higher in games played on FieldTurf than in games played on grass.”

According to the Post, Hixon tore his ACL without contact in the first football practice on the FieldTurf at New Meadowlands Stadium.  He is out for the season.

Fans in New England have already seen an ACL injury happen to their two best players in the past year and a half, as both Tom Brady and Wes Welker have suffered that injury.  Brady’s injury occurred at Gillette on FieldTurf, but was caused by an impact unrelated to the surface.  Welker’s happened on a non-contact play at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on a natural surface that head coach Bill Belichick heavily criticized after the game was over.

“I really think it’s one of the worst fields I’ve seen,” said Belichick, who won one of his three Super Bowls at Reliant in 2004. “I walked out there and I thought it was terrible. You think it’s going to grab and it gives. You think it’s going to give and it grabs. That’s where you get those non-contact injuries like we saw Sunday.”

Safety was one of the main reasons why the team originally switched over to FieldTurf at Gillette in 2006.  The surface was initially installed in the Dana Farber Field House where the team practices, and Belichick was impressed enough with the surface that they went ahead and made the move to switch to it at Gillette during the middle of the ’06 season.  Before the change Gillette was actually considered by a 2006 survey conducted by the NFLPA to be the worst playing surface in the NFL, with Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field ranked second.  Both were natural grass stadiums at the time of the survey.

After the switch to FieldTurf Brady at one point went 20-0 at home on the new surface, a point that the company took time to mention.   Most teams in the NFL now use their product, with 21 of the 32 member clubs making the change.

The new surface going into Gillette from all accounts is an upgrade over the previous version of their product, and is considered to be state of the art – with the Patriots being one of the first teams in the country to install it.  The good news is, most people who have tested it feel that it’s definitely softer.  As a matter of fact the New England Revolution have already been using it, and so far the feedback has been great.

“There seems to be quite a bit of cushion down there,” said Revolution goalkeeper Presten Burpo. “It felt pretty good diving around.”

“I like it a lot,” said defender Kevin Alston, unable to hide his enthusiasm. “It’s a lot better.”

We’ll leave you with a few videos. Here’s recent video of this newest surface being installed at Gillette, one of two major upgrades going on this season – with the other being an upgrade to each of the endzone video screens.

Here’s a video on the new Duraspine Pro product:

Here’s a video of a report that aired on NBC news back in 2008 which reported that the turf was indeed safe.