Many soccer goalies dive face down into the turf hundreds of times per week, during games and practices. As a consequence of playing that position on artificial turf, goalies are prone to inhale and ingest potentially toxic dust and vapor to a greater extent than most other athletes who play on those same fields.
Amy Griffin, Associate Soccer Coach at the University of Washington and former goalie for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, began discovering a disturbing pattern of soccer players being diagnosed with cancer, mostly cancers of the blood, lymphomas and leukemia.
On an NBC News report in 2014, we learned how she began compiling a list of players with cancer who played on artificial turf. When her list reached 38 soccer players, 34 were goalies. In 2015, when her list grew to 150 soccer players, 95 were goalies.
At last count, Amy’s list had 237 names of athletes from all over the country. That list and others like it will continue to grow as more parents of soccer players and other athletes suspect a connection between unnatural playing fields and cancer.
Goalies often incur bloody skin abrasions or turf burns from plastic blades that become rough and sharp. (See a photo from U.S. Women’s Soccer Team goalie Sydney Leroux Dwyer’s Twitter page.)
These wounds make them more vulnerable to infection, but do they also provide a pathway for carcinogens released from the turf to enter the bloodstream?
Is this the explanation for lymphomas and leukemia disproportionally striking soccer goalies?
Scientific research will take years to reach the kinds of conclusions that bring about change. Meanwhile, the artificial turf industry dismisses Amy’s list as just anecdotal evidence, and tells us that there is really nothing to worry about.
But, history teaches us that this kind of anecdotal evidence often triggers more public awareness and more scientific research.
The turf industry will tell you that the number of sick athletes on Amy’s list is too small to be statistically significant. In other words, it’s just coincidence.
But doesn’t the disproportionate number of soccer goalies, who play on artificial turf, getting cancer strike you as being an odd coincidence?
Stay tuned, as the evidence mounts and the research continues.