Fake turf safety alert

Image: File photo.
Image: File photo.

The City of Swan plans to spend $6.6 million to roll out four rectangular synthetic grass playing fields for soccer, touch rugby and lacrosse in the second stage of the multi-use complex.

The $3.7 million first stage of the project, which includes five junior ovals, two senior football ovals and three cricket pitches, as well as two sets of four-bay practice cricket nets, an outdoor exercise area and a 1.2km path for walking or cycling, is expected to be complete by September.

Stage two is expected to begin early next year. In what would be the first major, multi-purpose synthetic playing field surface installed by a local government in WA, up to 3.1 hectares of the artificial turf would be laid across soccer pitches that measure 100m by 64m each.

The City elected to install artificial turf because it requires little water ” a valuable commodity in the region.

Artificial turf has been used in the US for more than a decade but there is now increasing evidence to show it is less than ideal as a playing surface for major sports, such as soccer.

A study by the National Football League’s injury and safety panel presented to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons showed serious knee and ankle injuries happen more often in games played on artificial turf than on grass.

Panel chairman Elliott Hershman, a New York Jets orthopedist, said the report examined the 2002-08 seasons at the nine NFL stadiums that have artificial turf.

It found the rate of anterior cruciate ligament injuries was 88 per cent higher in artificial turf games, compared to those held on grass. The rate for ankle sprains was 32 per cent higher.

John Keleher, president of Turf Australia, this week urged all councils to reconsider the use of synthetic turf in community areas as worries over toxic links escalate.

‘Studies have raised concerns about the dangers of long-term exposure to synthetic turf and the presence of chemical carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),’ Mr Keleher said. ‘Synthetic turf has also been known to reach three times the average air temperature, which could cause serious burns to children and adults as they use playgrounds and sporting fields.’

Mr Keleher suggested councils consult their communities more broadly when determining where real turf should be used.

‘It is short-sighted to claim synthetic turf is cheap to maintain as it doesn’t require watering’=”font-size: 8pt;”>He said key sporting bodies in Australia and abroad had conducted studies into the use of synthetic turf and its impact on players.

The AFL and Cricket Victoria conducted a study in conjunction with Ballarat University in 2008 that concluded synthetic sports fields were appropriate for use for community sport level for both training and competition, he said.

Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) had also developed an accreditation ranking system for domestic and international competition standards and the International Rugby Board (IRB) had included synthetic sports surfaces in its rules for both training and competition purposes.

The three studies concluded ‘that no significant differences exist between team and player performance on football (synthetic) turf and natural grass,’ Mr Foley said.