Artificial Grass Could Be Affecting More Than The Bounce Of The Ball At The 2015 Women’s World Cup

Artificial grass turf has been a hot topic in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. From ball reaction, speed, and trajectory, to player injury and health concerns, artificial grass has been a much talked about issue.

Ball bounce, balls speed as it rolls, balls sliding on wet artificial grass, these have all been experienced during the course of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, thus far.

Abby Wambach of the United States women’s team was outspoken early-on in her opposition to the use of artificial grass for the Women’s World Cup, and she speaks about it in an interview with ESPN W’s Julie Foudy.

Though she and other players filed a lawsuit before the start of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, now that the tournament is well underway, they have dropped the suit and are moving forward.

But even though the players have no choice as to what type of grass they must play on, they do have to live with the consequences of playing on artificial grass, such as injury.

The National Football League has used artificial grass for decades; it is now common knowledge that a player is more likely to injure a knee or ankle when playing on an artificial grass field.

Artificial grass turf is constructed as a carpet-like material, using plastic or poly fibers to make the blades. The “fabric” is then stretched over concrete to create the field. Newer artificial grass fields also feature infill, as a cushioning mechanism, but cleats are more likely to catch on artificial grass than on natural grass, as it just does not give like earth does when pressure is applied.

In addition to potential joint injury, players have been subjected to dangerously high temperatures on the field. On the opening day of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, though it was a mild 75 degrees Fahrenheit outside, it was a scorching 120 degrees on the field, according to The Washington Post. The carpet on concrete construction, along with the black rubber infill does nothing but capture the heat, with no way of cooling down.

Exposure to extreme temperatures can cause a number of problems for players according to Sports Injury Clinic, including dehydration, cramping, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

But another kind of burn is also a concern for players – turf burn. Unlike natural grass, sliding on artificial crass can take skin clean off the legs. U.S. player Sydney LeRoux recently posted pictures of her bloody legs after a practice on artificial grass.

Besides the heat, the play of the ball, and potential injury, there has been growing concern regarding potential exposure to carcinogens due to the infill used on artificial grass fields being made from shredded used tires.

Amy Griffin, and associate head soccer coach at the University of Washington, has voiced suspicion over the safety of playing on artificial grass fields with crumb rubber infill. Griffin has compiled a list of soccer players who have played on such turf, in particularly goalkeepers, who have also been diagnosed with rare forms of cancer including leukemia and blood cancers.

“My fear is that most cancers require years of exposure and time to develop,” said Dr. Barry Boyd, a medical oncologist with Yale New Haven Health, in an interview with the Huffington Post, “Whatever exposure we have now, the adverse effects may not be seen for 20 years.”

[Image courtesy of photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]