Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Soccer hazards: "heading" concussions, toxic turf

Photo: Michael Macor

And then you have the toxic synthetic turf to worry about (Critics say EPA played dual role in recycled tire controversy):

...University of Washington assistant soccer coach Amy Griffin points to her list of cancer-stricken athletes as reason enough for concern. Eighty-two of the 126 athletes on her list are soccer goalies, players who were constantly diving into the synthetic turf.

“Goalkeepers are in this stuff all the time,” Griffin said. “Generally, during training, there are plenty of drills that you dive and save ball after ball after ball. You never really leave the ground.”

At first, in 2009, Griffin said she thought it was a strange and sad coincidence that she knew two goalies diagnosed with cancer. Then Griffin heard of more players.

One goalie with cancer told her she couldn’t help but think it had something to do with the little rubber pellets all over the turf field, the ones that would find their way into players’ clothes, eyes, nose and mouth throughout games and practices. The ones tracked into homes and found at the bottom of showers when players rinsed off.

Griffin said she found there was little conclusive research on the health effects of the recycled tire pieces players often called “turf bugs.” Since sharing her suspicions publicly, she said her phone has been ringing steadily and her list of athletes with cancer has grown.

“I was ready for people to call me and say I’m crazy, and instead people called and said, 'I’ve always wondered what’s in that stuff,’” Griffin said...

In San Francisco, the Recreation and Park Department expects to replace grass at the Beach Chalet athletic fields in Golden Gate Park with synthetic turf in November using the recycled rubber Hill’s bill proposes to study.

Sarah Ballard, spokeswoman for the parks department, said alternative products have not been well-vetted and may not hold up as well as the rubber pieces. Ballard said the parks department hopes to pilot the use of alternative products at smaller fields to see how they fare.

Opponents of the synthetic fields at Beach Chalet said they will continue to push for the parks department to use alternative products on the fields instead of recycled tires, such as used shoes, coconut fibers, rice husks or cork.

“We need to step back and study these before we install any more,” said Kathleen McCowin, who was arrested after staging a one-person sit-in at Golden Gate Park to stop construction of the new turf soccer fields. “I wouldn’t have gone to jail for anything less than children’s health. My daughter has played on (turf) fields. I drove her to these fields. I’ve had colleagues who say that’s all that’s left. It’s either play on these toxic turf fields or don’t play.”

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