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Field Safety Counts Toward Injury Prevention

If your child loves to play field sports but you’re concerned for his or her safety, you’re presented with a tough choice.

Soon the school house doors fly open–l and back to sports we go.  As kids and parents are shopping for supplies and schools wrap-up summer maintenance, what are athletic departments doing to prepare?

Field Safety

Most fall sports are field sports, such as football, soccer and field hockey. Sport safety is a hot topic thanks to 2,400+ former NFL players who’ve filed suit against the NFL. As pro players share their stories about life after head trauma, parents are wondering how safe football is for their kids. That’s prompted NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell to initiate discussion about youth sports safety.  The inaugural Youth Health and Safety Workshop takes place August 22, at NFL headquarters, and I’ve been invited to join in. As I get ready to contribute, I’ve been busy learning from experts.

Innovative Agronomics

Tom Margetts, T. Ag is the owner of Innovative Agronomics and is a leading expert in field safety testing, particularly G-Max testing. I spoke with Tom last week and he explained the importance of field surface conditions in injury prevention. 

Hard surfaces absorb less shock leaving the human body vulnerable to major injury—particularly head injury.

The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) established strict testing protocols for both natural and artificial turf.  As Tom explained, test scores are used to relate surface hardness with potential injury due to impact. According to the ASTM a G-Max below 200 is considered safe for play, but that’s only because over this level death or life threatening injury is likely to occur. Neither Tom nor I think that this level is safe enough for our kids.

Testing is done by dropping a 20 pound object from a height of 2 feet to simulate the impact received to a 300 pound linebacker’s head if he fell down, i.e. his head weighs 20 pounds and is 2 feet from the ground while in the ready position. Mind you, the simulation doesn’t account for movement or tackle.

Tom believes that for truly safe conditions, the ASTM should update and fine-tune protocols relative to user groups. “A 10-year old has a very different body type than a 300 pound linebacker,” he said. He also believes that “ASTM guidelines need to be lower and should reflect injury levels.”  Tom believes a positive change is coming within the next two years and that it will significantly reduce all injuries. Okay, but what do we do in the meantime?

Ask Questions

If your child loves to play field sports but you’re concerned for his or her safety, you’re presented with a tough choice.  The decision to allow play or not becomes overwhelming considering what’s at stake, parenting peer pressure, confusing technical data and of course your busy schedule that makes digging for information difficult. Perhaps the best place to start is by asking lots and lots of questions. 

To make a good decision

Ask coaches, field maintenance staff, town or village representatives, and friends in other communities about sports safety. Ask about field testing and keep asking questions until you fully understand methods and frequency of testing. ASTM only suggests annual testing, but there are no mandates, yet. Allow your circle of friends to support you in gathering the information you’ll need to ultimately choose well for you and your family.  

Remember, regardless the data you collect the ultimate decision is for you and your family to make; no one else has a vote. So, as you prepare for the upcoming school and sport season, start asking questions about safety so you can confidently choose well.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Aidan August 16, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Nothing can remove the possibility of injury in sports. If you play, you take a chance ... whether it's with your buddies in a pick up game or with an organized activity. No one can expect perfect playing conditions all over the place. I think we're creating bubble people.
Lorraine Esposito August 16, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Here-Here Aidan! I completely agree! The world is a place full of opportunities and with each one we assume a certain risk. That's why I'm advocating parents ask questions. To make a good decision, you must have good information. Useful information comes from relevant and credible sources--not sensational headlines. Thank you for the feedback.
Maureen August 17, 2012 at 08:56 PM
"Psychiatry has lost its way and seems increasingly unable to resist pathologizing ordinary life".  You should read "All We Have To Fear" about how psychiatry transforms natural anxieties into mental disorders. http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type=&id=812&fulltext=1&media=#
Lorraine Esposito August 18, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Marueen, I share your opinion. A book that helped me understand this idea well was, "What Happy People Know" by Dan Baker. http://danbakerconsulting.com/ When it comes to football and the very real risk of serious injury to kids, all we need do is know the truth, know the facts, and know our families. Once you've learned what you need to know, your decisions and their consequences cause much less anxiety. Thanks for the link and your comment.

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