By now, most readers are aware of Mayor Brindle’s plan to carpet the equivalent of 4 1/2 joined football fields with artificial turf (“turf”), to be lit by 9 stadium lights, at a cost of $9 million, on the field owned by the Board of Education behind Edison School for use for youth sports. The Mayor wrote on these pages recently that this is “an important first step”. What are contemplated as later steps, according to the Mayor? Turf fields on Elm Street, and at Memorial and Tamaques Parks. Readers – especially those who are a parent of a present or future young athlete – should know that there are ample studies indicating that playing on turf gives rise to a heightened risk of injury compared with natural grass.
In a 9/1/2000 article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, it was reported that a 3 year study of 17,549 high school and college football players revealed that head contact with turf was disproportionately associated with concussions, especially serious ones. And a 2020 article in the British Medical Journal informed that “the higher incidence of knee and ankle injuries on turf has been established.”
Among the many studies on the subject, two are highly relevant to youth sports, soccer in particular. In the July/August 2021 issue of Current Orthopaedic Practice, Review and Research, a team of doctors from Cleveland wrote that although there had been prior investigations at the collegiate and professional levels, no prior study had examined the risks of turf as to high school students, except for football. Data was collected from 28 high schools in the area and the medical team found that athletes were 58% more likely to be injured on turf, especially athletes playing girls and boys soccer, football and rugby.
The second highly relevant study was reported in the March 2018 issue of the Scandinavia Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. There doctors from Switzerland and the Czech Republic studied soccer injuries in players age 7-12 occurring in those countries over two seasons, and concluded that turf resulted in 39% more injuries than natural grass. In recent years, many towns, leagues, player unions and teams have been giving a “thumbs down” to turf, which is unregulated by the government, highly profitable for companies in the business, and convenient for towns because it offers greater playing time and less routine maintenance (although the initial cost, replacement and disposal costs, and periodic maintenance costs make it more expensive than well maintained natural grass).
This plan is, for all intents and purposes, irreversible, and it has been formulated such that it won’t be subject to a vote by the public. I encourage readers to do their own research, and when they see that the great weight of authority links enhanced injuries to turf, let the Mayor, Town Council, Board of Education and sports associations leaders know that they say “no” to turf.