by Haley Hunt on Friday, June 5th, 2015
The average turf field contains about 200,000 pounds of rubber made from thousands of used truck tires. The idea of turf has received mixed opinions—many schools that have turf are threatening to replace it with natural grass, while schools that don’t have turf are petitioning to have it installed. With an increasing amount of athletic games hosted on turf fields each year, competitors who do not have the ability to practice on turf appear to be at a severe disadvantage; games on turf tend to be faster-paced – a difficult adjustment for athletes who do not have the ability to practice on such surfaces.
Turf certainly has its advantages. In addition to its increased playability and durability, those who invest in turf save large amounts of water, as the average grass playing field requires around 50,000 gallons of water per week. Furthermore, less maintenance is required; while turf’s initial cost of about $600,000 is high, only an estimated $5,000 to $35,000 is required per year to keep the field in good playing condition. Plus, unlike natural grass, artificial turf doesn’t require pesticide and fertilizer treatment. However, in addition to the turf’s heat absorbing properties, which can make a 98-degree day feel like a temperature of more than 120 degrees on the turf, the materials in the rubber pieced designed to aid the cushioning of the grass, carry major health concerns. The lead, amongst other dangerous chemicals contained in the rubber tire pieces, is alleged to carry risks of skin infection and cancer. Lead exposure, a well-known children’s hazard, can lead to loss of intelligence, developmental delays, and damage to the organs and nervous system over time. Contact with the chemical occurs in three ways: by swallowing it, by breathing it, or by exposing it to one’s eyes. To avoid chemical exposure from the lead, players are advised to make minimal contact with the rubber, a feat made nearly impossible by the thousands of flying rubber pieces during playtime.
Many have deliberated whether or not playing on the turf makes players less prone to injury. Studies looking at football, rugby, and soccer injuries within the past five years show that, overall, a team’s injury rate on turf was 27% higher than on grass. Ankle, knee, and ACL damage were among the major injuries more prevalent on turf. However, injury research doctors have argued that, with the increasing amount of cushioning added to newly built turf fields, the surface is becoming safer.
Should Milton invest in a turf field? With more and more of our competitors buying into the turf craze, we, as a sports community, are put at a disadvantage, especially in sports like field hockey and lacrosse, when players must adjust to the faster game conditions. There are pros and cons to both turf and grass fields, and in the end it will come down to the strength of the community’s demand for a turf field.
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