High School Sports and Student Safety

From the Herald, a local story but with national implications - the use of rubberized fields and the incidence of cancer for young athletes (mostly soccer players who are goalies.)
The state Department of Health is investigating whether soccer players who competed on crumb rubber fields have higher rates of cancer.  Some of the cases involve soccer players between the ages of 5 and 24 who played in Washington and were diagnosed with cancer since 2002.
 Amy Griffin, a University of Washington soccer coach, received national attention in 2014 after compiling a list of young people who played on the artificial turf who were later diagnosed with cancer.
During a hearing last month in Olympia, she said the list has now grown to 209 such athletes, of which 160 are soccer players and of those 97 are goalies. Among the types of cancer the students were diagnosed with were leukemia, and both non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma.

In Snohomish County, opposition to crumb rubber athletic fields has been greatest in Edmonds. It was triggered by a $4.2 million Edmonds School District project to construct two synthetic turf athletic fields at the former Woodway High School. The fields opened in September, but the controversy has continued to simmer, led by parents.

In December, the Edmonds City Council approved a ban on the installation of synthetic turf playfields made from crumb rubber on any publicly owned athletic field until July 11, 2017. The action covers School District-owned properties.

His advice to parents with concerns about crumb rubber fields is to have their children wash their hands after playing on the fields and before eating; change out of their sports clothing before entering their home; shower after playing on the fields; carefully clean any cuts or scrapes from playing on the fields; and if they get any of the field's tiny rubber particles in their mouths, to spit them out. 
NBC has covered this issue extensively by reporter Stephanie Gosk, here.
In 2008 and 2009, both the CPSC and the EPA announced crumb rubber turf was safe to play on. But both agencies have recently softened their stance.

Earlier this month, in fact, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency would not answer a direct on-camera question about whether the surface found on playgrounds and athletic fields across the country is safe for kids to play on.

"I think the federal government should step up to the plate," said Jerry Hill, a California state senator who proposed legislation this year that would have postponed the installation of new fields until a comprehensive study was performed. "We want to know, 'Is this a product that is safe for our children, and protecting their health, or is it not?'"

Rom Reddy, CEO of SprinTurf , one of the largest synthetic turf companies, said he also wants the EPA to speak out on the issue, and affirm that studies prove his product is safe.

"There is more than enough information for them to act," Reddy said
Whose duty is it to make sure these fields are safe for kids, both playing a sport and just playing?  Districts? States? Feds?

On the near-eve of the Super Bowl, here's question; is football going away?  You might think so after these stories.

Former football great Barry Sanders wrote this op-ed for USA Today.
Now, one question comes up more than any other: “Should I let my child play at all?”

My answer? “Yes. But … be aware of the risks.”

For young players, there is a focus on the immediate consequence of the injury. The symptoms of concussions make it dangerous for players to return to the game, and they may interfere with basic daily living, including academics. That alone is reason to follow guidelines closely.

But the dangers of long-term damage from repeated concussions must be understood as well, and that’s the biggest change from my playing days: None of us — doctors, coaches, players — had any idea of the lasting impact.
From NBC news: Are High School Football's Friday Night Lights Fading


Anonymous said…
I'm a big Seahawks fan but honestly I'll think twice before letting my kid play tackle football. Though I appreciate that they're trying to make modifications (such as tackle techniques learned from rugby players), that's still a lot of blunt force going on.

Honestly, I'd be cool if people got scanned into robots-with-their-limitations and we had Robot Football.

-New Mom
Catherine said…
I get concerns about sports injuries - one broken foot and one good sprain for my kiddo, I had stress fractures for most of 6 years.

For us (and our son didn't want to play football but I would have let him)...the worst injuries happened at school in non-class time (a severely broken hand that required surgery, pins, rehab and 6 months - and has never been like before).

I have three friends with kids in drama, who have had their kids get concussions in drama class. I have multiple friends, and their kids, who have gotten sever injuries from riding bikes.

Where I am - is that kids/people will get hurt even in the most innocuous situations - I think living a life fully including adversity, has value.

Yes - we should look to make things safer, but there's a balance point, and I think everyone has a different one. And that's good.
Catherine, what you are talking about is very different from exposure your child to a material that could hurt him/her. You cannot control what happens accidentally for sure. But you have some degree of control over what sports they play and the degree of consequence to that choice.
alex said…
I have a highly athletic kid who loves all sports, especially soccer. I have always hated those turf fields. You can smell the chemical smell wafting off of them on a hot day. I am crazy about making him wash his hands after playing on them. I would bet they will be banned within the next few years. I hate them, but cannot ban soccer for him. It's his passion. Football on the other hand, is banned! Simple as that. No tackle football ever. And he loves that too. But, my brother died of a neurological illness and as far as I am concerned you don't mess with the brain. I know soccer players get concussions too, but there aren't lots of retired soccer players being diagnosed with CTE post-humously so I think there is a difference.
Anonymous said…
Are all of the artificial turf fields in Seattle - at the play fields (Miller for example) and Seattle Public Schools (Hale, Garfield, Roosevelt) crumb fields? - NP
Jet City mom said…
Soccer actually has same rate of head injuries as football.
Most injuries are from contact with another player, not from heading the ball.
I imagine that the turf fields are shredded rubber.
When my daughter played soccer, very few fields were synthetic.
Yes, some of the fields had huge water hazards as they played outdoors, through November and December, but it just made it more interesting.
Anonymous said…
Vote, please. Thank you very much

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