NBC’s Hannah Rappleye poured a lot of research into this piece on artificial turf, finding an alarming correlation between soccer players, particularly goalkeepers, and cancer diagnoses.
As exhaustive as NBC’s research is, it can’t really answer the question of whether artificial turf is to blame. That’s not NBC’s fault. The science just isn’t there. Most studies are in the “well, we couldn’t find a link, but more study is needed” camp. That’s somewhat comforting.
The follow-up questions aren’t just scientific but statistical. How many people have played soccer, goalkeepers in particular, on artificial turf? How many have been diagnosed with cancer? Now take that percentage and compare it to the incidence of cancer across the general population in that age range.
That’s obviously beyond my scope here. Maybe FiveThirtyEight could follow up?
One side issue for scientists to figure out — are turf fields more dangerous when they heat up and release vapors? Perhaps we’ll find yet another reason not to play on artificial turf when the air temperature is over 90 and the turf temperature is simply insane.
In the meantime, I’m going to try not to worry about the masses of rubber pellets I brought home from indoor soccer games over a few years. I don’t think I swallowed any, at least.
And then the more serious concerns: Do we worry about our kids playing on this surface? Or the pros?