Soccer Safety Vol. 4
Soccer Turf and Injuries
November 20, 2007
By JR Justesen
(Editors Note: This is the fifth installment of a multi-part series on soccer safety.)
Turf fields have come a long way. The older, first- and second-generation fields led to increases in leg and knee injuries as well as more severe head and neck injuries when players hit the ground.
Research results on injury rates on the new, third generation, turf fields were released in 2006 and 2007. Both these studies found that there was no overall difference in the risk of injuries between turf and natural grass fields. The studies did find a tendency towards more ankle sprains on the turf fields. Other research has shown that turf fields have a higher twist out or grip on the shoe than do grass fields -- a possible explanation for the tendency towards ankle sprains.
Fields tend to pack down with prolonged use and with wet weather. Clubs will defibrillate their turf fields to reverse the packing effect. A packed field will result in higher twist out forces.
Soccer boots with round cleats will have less twist out than the new molded blade style cleats. Some clubs have even banned the use of blades on turf fields.
Another preventative strategy is to add a more thorough strength and conditioning program early into the players training regimen. See your local physiotherapist or athletic trainer to learn about ankle strength exercises, deceleration drills, balance and agility training. A little prevention will go a long way.
Turf fields require far less water than grass fields and no fertilizers or pesticides. Some companies even use recycled rubber in their turf field pellets. One such recycled material comes from car tires and could pose a health problem down the road.
A physician in New York recently looked at the rubber pellets used in turf fields. Lab work showed the presence of compounds called PAHs, some of which are cancer causing. Furthermore, the samples tested in New York found the PAHs at levels over and above soil contamination limits. Researchers now want to look at the possibility that players, especially children, may absorb some of these harmful chemicals.
Cleaning Turf Fields
Turf fields tend to accumulate bacteria anything from blood, sweat, spit, animal visits to the park and who knows what else. Clubs must clean their turf fields with the use of chemicals that will kill the microbes growing within the pellets and grass blades.
When a player breaks the skin on a turf or any other field for that matter, the wound should be thoroughly cleansed to avoid infection
A University of Missouri turf expert took temperature readings on a third generation turf field on a 98-degree day. He found the surface temperature to be 173 degrees and the head level height temperature to be 138 degrees. On very hot days athletes are practically playing in an oven.
Hydration for health and sport performance is a large and well researched topic that deserves an additional mention here. Hydration requirements will be even greater when playing on turf on a warm or hot day.
Bottom Line Turf fields are great for all weather use
Wear round cleats over blades to decrease twist out forces
Learn ankle strength, balance, agility and deceleration exercises to prevent injuries
Hydrate well on all days but especially on turf fields on hot days
Dont leave your water bottle laying in the turf field
Disinfect all wounds received on turf (and grass) fields
Be aware that some of the pellets used in the turf may pose a health risk that to this point is not well known.
Yours in Health and Sport,
JR is a physical therapist, a player, coach and father. He has worked in amateur and professional soccer and has also written a book on soccer safety available free of charge at www.goal-tek.com. Articles are also available on the website www.parkwayphysiotherapy.com.
Click here for Vol. 3 of Soccer New England's Soccer Safety series.
Click here for Vol. 2 Part B of Soccer New England's Soccer Safety series.
Click here for Vol. 2 Part A of Soccer New England's Soccer Safety series.
Click here for Vol. 1 of Soccer New England's Soccer Safety series.
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