Why quality will give you a sporting advantage.
By Navjot Dhillon Marketing MANAGER & NICK EGAN TECHNICAL MANAGER GERFLOR UK.
A KEY function of sports flooring is to help protect players from injury and enhance their athletic performance. A sports floor surface is arguably the most important element of a sporting facility to its players, so those that design, build and manage indoor sports premises need high quality and sustainable sports floorings that provide the comfort, safety and performance aspects that are so crucial to everyone taking part in sport.
The fundamental importance of the role of indoor sports floorings to environments like clubs, gyms, sports halls, leisure centres and multi-use facilities can therefore not be underestimated, regardless of whether they are low impact or elite performance sport locations. This also extends to educational establishments like schools, colleges and universities where long-term injuries to the bones, joints and ligaments of budding athletes, especially those still growing, could cut short a potential sporting career.
Clearly aesthetics, acoustics, hygiene, resistance to wear, easy maintenance and good indoor air quality are key factors to sports venues. But when it comes to reducing the risk of injury, minimising the severity of an injury, should it occur, and helping prevent short and long-term impact injuries, then the choice of sports flooring is critical.
For specialist sports facilities with volleyball, badminton and other racket sport courts, for example, it’s a case of selecting the ideal sports surface for the game so specifiers may need guidance from specification specialists. Equally important is the correct choice of flooring for multi-use venues where there is a need to accommodate other activities in addition to sport such as concerts, assemblies and examinations which require the use of occasional tables and chairs.
Flooring manufacturers specialising in sports flooring have therefore developed new product innovations to provide the best possible flooring solutions to meet the needs of varying sports facilities and to achieve the perfect balance between co-efficient of friction and easy movement.
There are different types of sports floor and the most commonly used include point elastic flooring for multi-use to elite sport levels, area elastic floors such as sprung wooden floors that are good for ball bouncing games, and floors with both point elastic and area-elastic properties offering combined benefits. European sports flooring standard EN 14904 outlines the minimum performance requirements for a flooring to be classified as an indoor sports flooring. The standard covers point elastic and aeroelastic sports floorings. Point elastic floorings offer three levels of shock absorbency compared with concrete to cater for different usage. A point elastic P1 flooring provides 25% of shock absorbing retention, with P2 35% and P3 45% respectively.
A P3 flooring provides the greatest level of impact control and will instantly absorb impact with the floor thereby meeting the requirements of elite sport flooring. Additionally, the Impact Protection Index (IPI) indicates the protection levels a sports flooring will provide.
The higher the IPI level, the higher the protection from pain and immediate injury when falling, diving or sliding on the floor. The highest-level achieving products on the market have an IPI of 88%, giving greater protection to players of high-risk sports. Whereas, an IPI of 50% is more suited to lower risk sports.
Combined elastic and double density foam sport floor systems also benefit from foam technology that enables the lower layer to compress while the upper layer remains firm. The resulting deformation trough is twice the area of the foot allowing for greater freedom of movement in rotation while permitting a secure foothold that minimises risk of injury.
Ultimately, shock absorbing P3 floorings are 12mm thick with a foam layer and an IPI level of 88%. P3 floorings comprising calendered PVC sheets reinforced with fibre-glass grid also give outstanding stability. A P1 flooring with a double fibreglass grid offers greater resistance to indentation in multiuse locations. What’s more sports floorings with built-in, easy maintenance, intelligent surface treatments provide a perfect compromise between slide and grip when appropriate sports shoes are worn, and a lower risk of friction burns.
Permanent and portable system sports floorings are available to address the needs of clubs, federations and committees of varied sporting events. Point elastic floorings come in permanent and portable versions. A P3 point elastic flooring comprises two layers which are bonded together for permanent installations.
Portable floorings include ready-to-go rolls which joint easily together. Some types of point elastic floorings can also be installed over an undercarriage system for where greater area elastic properties are required.
Timber sports floorings are always popular for their traditional good looks. MFMA certified Hard Maple is amongst the most robust timber sports flooring available and when installed with an undercarriage system it provides a resilient, sprung floor with varied values of area elastic and shock absorbency.
Today’s indoor sports floorings couple visual impact with advanced technology to provide the heightened performance and safety characteristics that sports environments demand. Attractive designs in PVC flooring, including wood effects, provide specifiers with the choice needed to create interiors that enhance their brand and image.
As the performance qualities required differ from sport to sport and venue to venue, the new generation of sports floorings is rising to the challenge of delivering champion solutions.
Sport flooring in education
IMPROVING and expanding physical education facilities is increasingly important to many schools and colleges. Childhood obesity is rising in children even as young as four or five sparking concerns about a potential obesity crisis and its impact on the health of young people in the UK.
Sedentary lifestyles and junk food are considered to be much to blame and so to help pupils have healthier lifestyles former education secretary, Justine Greening, announced that a ‘Healthy Pupils Capital Programme’ would be available to England’s state-funded primary, secondary and sixth form schools in the 2018 to 2019 academic year.
She said: ‘Schools can really help our children get a healthy start in life from exercise and sport, and also from knowing what a healthy diet is.’
Schools are therefore to receive a £415m investment in facilities to support sports, after-school activities and promote healthy eating. The programme extends to improving facilities for children with physical conditions and mental issues.
However, government’s current ‘PE and Sport Premium’ is a funding initiative dedicated solely to funding physical education so schools can develop or add to existing PE and sports activities. This funding can also be used to build capacity and capability to ensure improvements made now will benefit future pupils in years to come.
The amount of funding available is based on pupil numbers with schools maintained by the local authority, academies, free schools, special schools, city technology colleges and pupil referral units amongst those eligible.
Given that the chief medical officer guidelines recommend that those aged five to eighteen take part in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, 30 minutes of which should be in school, this is one of the key indicators schools should expect to see improvements across as well as more sport and exercise provision and greater opportunity to participate in sport with other schools and clubs.
But according to a recent study by the University of Granada in Spain, physical education (PE) can also make children brainier. Research into more than 100 obese and overweight children aged from eight to eleven showed that physical fitness in children is directly linked to brain structure.
By recording fitness levels and the volume of the cortical and sub-cortical regions of their brains during cardiovascular exercise, the study found taking part in physical activity at least three times a week stimulated the brain. It concluded that physical activity should be taught every day in schools as exercise increases both brain size and academic performance.
The right exercise and sports ﬂoors are needed in education
Growing emphasis on the need for greater physical education provision places increased focus on specifying and installing the best possible flooring solution in every educational establishment, according to its needs. But whereas sport and exercise are good for children, this can be reversed by the potential for injury if the surface on which they play on is not fit-for-purpose or appropriate to the activity.
It’s the right of every child and young person to have the opportunity to enjoy physical activity as much as possible and to lay the foundations for future well-being and a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, increasing these opportunities from the early years and providing safe, comfortable, high quality sport flooring solutions is essential.
Timber flooring with a sprung undercarriage remains the most popular choice within multi-use school halls as it is deemed the most durable. Commonly a timber sprung floor is installed in halls predominantly used for exercise as well as activities like assemblies, concerts and exams. However, it may not be the most appropriate type of flooring for the physical activities taking place like PE, dance, play and general sports.
Whereas timber sprung sports floors are extremely effective at reducing impact injuries when a person of applicable weight is playing a fast-paced game like basketball, they’re not specifically designed for multi-use facilities or low impact sport.
This because shock absorbency concerns the protection of the body’s interaction with the floor. Designed to work like a spring, timber sprung floors protect against repeat impact injuries when their inherent shock absorbency benefits work in reaction to the weight of a person’s exertion on the surface. However, the EN14904 standard tests for indoor sports flooring replicate a grown adult running 100m in 11 seconds.
However, school children and young people of less weight than necessary to activate the shock absorbency of a timber sprung floor when they run, and jump are not protected from potential impact injury if they fall. And timber is a very hard surface to hit. Also, special needs children with impaired motor skills and coordination who are more likely to fall, need the ultimate protection that flooring can provide. For these reasons a sports area within an education facility should be a specified flooring solution.
Floorings that are winners: Synthetic indoor sport flooring solutions have been developed to cater for different levels of activity ranging from playtime in general rooms and low impact sport to strenuous competitive games in purpose-built sports halls and gymnasiums. Cutting edge and in vibrant attractive designs and colours, they are therefore suitable for multi-use spaces to elite sports facilities.
Unsurprisingly high quality, vinyl sport flooring solutions are proven in international sporting events like the Olympic Games where sports such as volleyball are played on them. For the vulnerable like special needs children or any young person who could be deterred from exercise and sport by injury, they provide an excellent and reassuring degree of comfort, safety and performance.
Flooring manufacturers like Gerflor have invested significantly and developed dedicated, environmentally friendly sports flooring solutions that are suited to all levels of sport and activity regardless of ability delivering a suite of products aimed at providing suitable flooring for a vast array of fitness facilities and gyms whether it be in the private or education sectors.