By Paige Harrison
Potomac State athletes are at a huge risk of catching and transmitting harmful bacteria by playing on the school’s synthetic turf field.
According to Edmar Chemical Company, synthetic turf is a breeding ground for bacteria like MRSA: an infection caused by Staph bacteria. Staph enters the body through broken skin, making turf burns a potential route for the bacteria. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one and three individuals are carriers of Staph. This means many of PSC’s athletes have the potential to spread and or catch this highly-contagious bacteria.
Turf fields are continually being contaminated by bodily fluids-blood, saliva, sweat and vomit- plus animal and bird droppings. Edmar points out that many think that rain will wash away these contaminates, but the rubber crumbs that fill the field act as a filter. All the present bacteria gets trapped, and “clean” water filters through.
Some may also think that UV light from the sun kills bacteria present on turf fields. While the UV light can help, at nighttime when it is dark, moist, and the turf is still warm from the sun, the field becomes a habitat for thriving bacteria.
Red Hen Turf Farm and Blue Grass Enterprises, two large synthetic turf corporations, released a booklet together on proper turf maintenance and cleaning. The booklet states that turf must be cleaned and disinfected for player safety. The cleaning process is made simple with sprayer machines that rake through the field while spraying disinfectant. These machines can be purchased from the same companies that sell the turf.
Mark Sprouse, the women’s soccer head coach at PSC, and Josh Seese, the women’s lacrosse head coach at PSC, both stated that they were not sure how or if PSC’s field was kept clean.
“There isn’t a way of disinfecting turf, or at least that I know of,” said Shawn White, the athletic director for PSC.
Four PSC teams use the field, putting it in constant use year round. If the field is not properly cleaned, that is a lot of possible bacteria and infections. This should be a huge concern for the PSC athletes that are subject to play on the turf.
The NCAA and NJCAA do not have any rules regarding the cleaning of turf fields. OSHA has guidelines for the rubber crumbs used to fill the fields but not for disinfecting.
Careful attention is paid to the sanitation of wrestling mats to prevent the same bacteria that are present in turf fields. So, why isn’t anyone giving special attention to the potential health hazards of our turf field at PSC?
Care to learn more about the potential hazards lurking below?