14 Feb Player’s Health to parents concerned about artificial turf: Control what you can control
Editor’s Note: US Club Soccer is proud to introduce Player’s Health to its members. Player’s Health is a Players First partner advancing the pillars of Player Health & Safety and Parent Engagement & Education.
By Matthew Cox | Player’s Health
Attention, all youth soccer parents: it’s no secret – skepticism about the safety of artificial turf has been on the soccer community’s radar for quite some time. But, it was not until last year when the voices of the “anti-artificial turf advocates” grew louder than ever.
Some scary evidence around the potential connection of artificial turf’s infamous “black rubber dots” – which are rubber pellets made from recycled tire crumbs – to cancer-related health risks perked a lot of parents’ ears up. While many follow-up studies have found no direct linkage between the synthetic pellets and long-term health risks, the information gathering and research remains in the early days – much like the concussion conundrum currently plaguing “American football.”
But the less severe, day-to-day injury risks associated with artificial turf are still widely apparent, causing an uproar at all levels of soccer, from high school all the way up to the U.S. women’s national team. More robust scientific studies have varied in their conclusions regarding injury prevalence associated with artificial turf, but a few have noted that recent improvements in artificial turf technology have in fact reduced injury risk – just refer to one of the more recently published reports from August 2017 conducted by Nara Medical University in Japan.
While the battle over artificial turf continues to rage on, as a parent of a young soccer player who may very likely be exposed to synthetic playing surfaces, you must control what you can control. So, where’s a good place to start? Making sure your child is equipped with the right shoes – shoes that have been specifically designed for optimal performance on the rubber-based pitch.
The soccer shoe industry has responded in full force to the new wave of artificial turf playing fields, which has made what used to be a rather simple choice a much more nuanced and complex decision. Per an in-depth analysis of the soccer shoe landscape by Soccer.com, there are four primary types of shoes – we’d recommend purchasing either #2 or #3, both of which are compatible with artificial turf:
- Firm Ground: the ‘traditional’ type of soccer shoe, these are what you likely grew up playing with. This design is meant for standard outdoor natural grass fields.
- FG / AG Hybrid: Compared to the artificial grass / hard ground shoes (see #3 below), the FG / AG hybrids skew more toward the traditional soccer cleat (see #1 above) and should feel more natural for your child if that’s the design he / she is more accustomed to playing in. To avoid spending hundreds of dollars on two pairs of shoes – one for artificial turf and one for natural grass – it may be wise into invest in the FG / AG hybrids, a cleat designed for playing on both natural grass and artificial turf.
- Artificial Grass / Hard Ground: the specialized artificial turf shoe, these are specifically meant for hard ground surfaces, such as artificial turf or dried up grass / dirt surfaces.
- Soft Ground & Pro Soft Ground: extended cleats on these shoes are suited for muddy and damp playing surfaces, most commonly used during or right after heavy rainfall on natural grass surfaces.
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