Langara’s coach expresses concerns over artificial turf

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A Langara Falcons player cuts towards the Kwantlen Eagles net during a game on Oct. 12. Photo: Nich Johansen
A Langara Falcons player cuts towards the Kwantlen Eagles net during a game on Oct. 12. Photo: Nich Johansen

Reported by Nich Johansen

With women soccer players recently launching a lawsuit against soccer’s governing body, FIFA, to fight the use of artificial turf, questions have arisen regarding risks posed to Langara Falcons players who often play on the same surface.

Artificial turf sports fields cause more knee injuries and back pain than standard grass, according to Marc Rizzardo, the Langara men’s soccer coach and chief physiotherapist at Metrotown Orthopedic and Sports Physiotherapy Clinic.

On Oct. 1, a coalition of national level women soccer players filed a lawsuit against soccer’s governing body, FIFA, charging sexual discrimination for their use of artificial turf in the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015.

The lawsuit argues that artificial turf fields pose “unique safety risks and are considered inferior” and that they have never been used in a men’s World Cup.

According to the team’s schedules, Langara soccer teams play their home games on grass, yet roughly half of their overall games are played on artificial turf.

Pros and cons of artificial turf

According to Rizzardo, an alternative to standard grass fields, artificial turf pitches have gained popularity in Vancouver due to their resilience to the rain and their ability to withstand more volume

“Usage is phenomenal,” he said. “You can have teams playing every minute of the day, where with a grass field if you did that, you would torch the field.”

Second year player Olivia Kappeli takes a goal kick at the artificial turf at UBC's Varsity Field on Oct. 12. Photo: Nich Johansen
Second year player Olivia Kappeli takes a goal kick at the artificial turf at UBC’s Varsity Field on Oct. 12. Photo: Nich Johansen

Unfortunately the cost of these positives may be borne by the players. Rizzardo explained these fields are built to have a shelf life of eight to nine years. After that, they can become difficult to play on.

“Some of the other [turf] fields in town have basically become hard rocks,” Rizzardo said. “It’s just like playing on concrete. That’s the problem.”

“This can result in a higher risk of injuries,” he explained. “More knee injuries and more lower back [pain].”

Brett Wiens, a fifth year Langara men’s soccer player, would rather play on grass because of the way the ball reacts.

“Turf is nice, but the game plays completely different,” Wiens said.”” The ball rolls a lot quicker and the bounces are way bigger. It is a different game.”

He said that there are minor issues like turf burn on the artificial surface that are not a factor on grass, but there is potential for injury regardless of what surface the game is played on.

“Overall I feel like there’s going to be injuries no matter how you play the game,” Wiens said. “As far as major injuries, it’s going to happen either way. I’ve had injuries both ways, grass and turf.”

Artificial turf is a subject that all avid soccer players seem to have an opinion on. Despite the controversy there are still players that prefer turf. Video by Lukasz Jonca & David La Riviere

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