Tag Archives: Gordie Howe Bowl

Is Saskatoon making a dangerous mistake relying on Field Turf?

When I criticized Field Turf going into SMF Field, I was ridiculed when I pointed to research that showed that the heat and things like ACL and MCLs would be on the rise.  The argument was that it was better then the old Gordie Howe field was often mentioned.  It never occured to anyone that we could put down good turf like the Hilltops play on each and every day at Ron Atchison Field.  It also never occurred to people that maybe high schools don’t need to bus down to Howe Bowl all of the time and instead they could play on their home field like other cities do. 

Now there is this.  Field Turf is made from tires which are hazardous waste when they are tires but for some reason we have decided to let our children play on them in pellet form.

These are the days when the Women’s World Cup becomes truly grueling. Fewer days off, better opponents, more pressure. And a persistent obstacle the men never have to face – the artificial turf.

"I have plenty of blisters on my toes," United States forward Alex Morgan said with a resigned smile on Thursday.

That’s not a good thing for any player, let alone a star on the mend from knee and ankle ailments. "Turf achiness takes a little longer to recover from," Morgan said.

Michelle Heyman of Australia was even more blunt: "You wouldn’t want to see the bottom of our feet after a game," she told one Australian newspaper. "They just turn white. The skin is all ripped off; it’s pretty disgusting. It’s like walking on hot coals with your skin ripping and slowly cracking, constantly."

Well that isn’t the worst part.

Field temperatures in Edmonton for an earlier match soared as high as 120 degrees, even though the air temperature was in the low 70s. This weekend’s forecast for the Australians’ match with Japan is calling for a high around 90. One UNLV study found synthetic turf can heat up to 170 degrees in summer months. That poses risks ranging from dehydration to heat illness.

Then there is the possibility of faster collisions with other players, and with the ground. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the world’s leading sports neurologists, told Yahoo Sports that studies of turf vs. grass haven’t been conclusive in his field, but "I would still stand behind the concept that grass is likely safer from a concussion standpoint."

No wait, that isn’t even the worst part.  This is the worst part.

Artificial turf is used for playgrounds all over the continent, and battles are taking place over whether children are safe being exposed to the crushed tire rubber that makes up the turf. A Stockholm University study from 2012 found "automobile tires may be a potential source of highly carcinogenic dibenzopyrenes to the environment."

"It’s a serious, serious problem," says Nancy Alderman, president of the Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), an organization of physicians and public health professionals. "We are concerned about the health of a whole generation now who are playing on these fields."

Research on the topic is not advanced enough to conclusively determine safety hazards, but anecdotal evidence has hit close to home for the U.S. team. Amy Griffin, assistant coach at the University of Washington and former mentor to Hope Solo, has compiled a list of 153 student-athletes, the majority of them soccer goalkeepers, who have been diagnosed with cancer over the last several years. She has sent her research to the Washington State Department of Health.

"I never said this is giving people cancer," Griffin said by phone. "But if you were me, and you saw the number of goalkeepers [with cancer] was so high, you’d be alarmed.

"The more I know about tires, the more I think, ‘What the heck? What are we doing?’ " Griffin said. "In large form it’s hazardous waste, and in crumb form it’s OK for kids?"

The EHHI has been studying this issue at Yale University, and it released a statement earlier this month revealing it has found 96 chemicals in the materials used for synthetic turf.

"Of the 96 chemicals detected," the statement read, "a little under a half have had no toxicity assessments done on them for their health effects. … Of the half that have had toxicity assessments, 20 percent are probable carcinogens."

The lead investigator on the study, Yale University professor Gabdoury Benoit, called the rubber infill "a witch’s brew of toxic substances. It seems irresponsible to market a hazardous waste as a consumer product."

FieldTurf, the company that provided the playing surface for three of the World Cup stadiums in Canada, wrote in an email to Yahoo Sports stating that "Scientific research from academic, federal and state government organizations has unequivocally failed to find any link between synthetic turf and cancer. We are committed as a company and as an industry to the safety of our fields and the athletes that compete on them – which is why we have encouraged the rigorous work from third-parties that has taken place over decades to confirm there are no negative health effects connected to synthetic turf." The company also forwarded an array of documents supporting its case.

The lack of proof of causality is not soothing to some experts, however. "Cancer is a 30- or 40-year process," Yale oncologist Barry Boyd said. "So long-term exposure may not show up until years later."

Part of the uncertainty is the extent of a player’s exposure to the crumb rubber. The preponderance of goalies in Griffin’s research is troubling, as those players are interacting more with the turf by repeatedly diving onto the ground. But American players here have said they have found the pellets all over their body even after post-match showers. "Anywhere and everywhere," defender Lori Chalupny said. If the pellets do have toxic characteristics – especially under extreme heat – the proximity of athletes to those characteristics is there after games.

So kids start playing Kinsmen Football on turf.  They play three years on it at the SaskTel Soccer Centre and SMF Field.  Then they play parts of four years of high school football.  The best play four years of Hilltops and then Huskies on artificial turf.

Of course the reason we use turf is that it is cheap.  No other reason.  The NFL has known for years that it shortens careers, particularly of running backs whose knees pay the cost.  Countless NCAA universities who have had artificial or field turf are going back to grass because of the injuries.  Even the Arizona Cardinals who play in a dome stadium move the entire field outside during the week so they can have natural grass.

Good grief, the Blue Jays are paying $600,000 a year to Guelph University for them to develop a grass that will grow inside. Why? It is so hard on athletes, even baseball players to play on turf.  Now it appears that the turf that Saskatoon just fundraised to install has a major health risk to the kids who are going to play on it.  Nice job Saskatoon.

17 years ago today

Wendy and I were married 17 years ago yesterday.  Next year our relationships will reach adulthood.

As anniversaries go it was really boring.  I have only had food poisoning a couple of times in my life and both times it has happened on our anniversary so in this case, non-eventful is good.

This morning we got up and got Mark to Bedford Road so he could get ready to play in the Charity Bowl.  Then it was off to Gordie Howe Bowl to watch him play.

Mark has started all of his games at linebacker this season.  Five minutes before the game he was told he would be playing starting defensive half back and then as he went out he was told to play cornerback.  If you have played football, being told to go out and play a position which you have never even practiced for a second is a recipe for disaster but he performed well and had no passes completed against him and had a couple of tackle.  Bedford won in a blowout so it all worked out well.

This year he has played linebacker, cornerback and defensive line.  Again, the body types required to play defensive line and cornerback are generally exclusive to each position but he held his ground and did well so we are proud of him.  Most importantly, Bedford Road just had their parent-teacher interviews and he is doing well academically.  So far that make Grade 9 a success.

Of course the Charity Bowl is a great Saskatoon tradition and all of the money that was raised today goes to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Saskatoon.

To keep with the football theme today, I gave Wendy a new Saskatchewan Roughrider jersey and got her a new Starbucks mug and some Pineapple tea.  I was nervous about giving her a big thing of pineapple tea since she hates ham and pineapple pizza but as long as she doesn’t pour it on her pizza, she should be okay.  She turned around and got me a Bluetune Bluetooth player which was great.

After meeting Janice Braden for coffee, we had a noisy supper at Alexander’s.  Not sure what was going on but we were the only couple not in suits and without speakers in our ears.  We had planned on going to The Oddcouple but neither of us felt that hungry after a big lunch.

Of course it was about then that my phone started to go off because council had decided to end the transit lockout.  So if I got this right, Saskatoon City Council took 28 days and a failed labour board ruling to get right back to where were a month ago politically after affecting the lives of thousands with no gain.  People lost their jobs, couldn’t get to appointments, businesses were hurt, and families disrupted for absolutely nothing.

Then I was able to watch councillors go on Twitter and say, “We made the right choice”.  Feel free to help me out with this but I can’t find a historical comparison to an elected body that his this clueless.  I want to talk about the Devine governments with Fair Share Saskatchewan and privatizing SaskEnergy but they had an opposition.  Saskatoon City Council did this all by themselves to themselves.  That almost seems like incompetence without precedent.

Winnipeg’s City Council often rivals ours for incompetence but I think Saskatoon has won this contest.  It’s so weird because at least 8 of the 11 of them do their work, show up at meetings, and read their books.  They can ask intelligent questions and for the most part show capable political instincts.  Yet something goes wrong when they go behind closed doors.  

Of course there are all sorts of interesting questions to be asked.  Mainly what is the administrations role in this and who is running the show at City Hall.  Is it the administration or the council.  I have heard several comments from admin and staff who seem to suggest that administration thinks it is running the show in the city and that council is just there to give some advice.  In fact, even the Mayor’s recent comments make me think he thinks that.  So if that is case, this could have happened in a vacuum of a lack of leadership from city council.  Either way, a lot of lives were affected for nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

100 Ideas to Improve Saskatoon: 5. Give up on Gordie Howe Bowl

Gordie Howe Bowl is a terrible stadium and it will be even after the renovations.  I know its home to the Saskatoon Hilltops, the 834 time Canadian Junior Football champions but that doesn’t mean it’s a decent stadium.

Gordie Howe Bowl

The stands are a long ways away from the playing field and the seats are sloped well back.  It’s more a saucer than it is a bowl which means that the stadium is quiet, even with a crowd full of cow bells and air horns.

The concessions are terrible which makes a bad game day experience worse., even if watching the Saskatoon Hilltops is always worth your time and money.  For high school football, the size is too large even for frosh week or rivalry games.  Even when attendance is goodl, half of the stadium is empty.

Proponents of Howe Bowl point out that the improvements (larger dressing rooms that no one uses), concessions, and field turf will make the game better.  Field turf has shredded (63%) more knees (players hate it) and caused more concussions than decent grass ever has.  The medical evidence for keeping players on natural grass is significant, especially since most high school seasons are done before the extreme cold hits (I know there are exceptions, I have played in them).  By upgrading Howe Bowl and making it cheaper to maintain (our city’s m.o.) we are making it less safe for high school athletes.

The solution is to stop the fundraising for the stadium and move the Hilltops to Griffiths Stadium.  As for high school football, construct metal stands on each high school field like they do in almost every other city in North America and have them play there.  Most high school fields are in good shape and the addition of some bleachers means that home field would really mean something.

As for the Hilltops, it isn’t as if this is a big move as the Hilltops play late season games at Griffiths each season after the high school teams have destroyed the turf at the Bowl.  Canadian championships have been won at Griffiths Stadium.  It has history for both the Huskies and Hilltops not to mention city high school games and even the Charity Bowl.

Gordie Howe Bowl has a lot of tradition but there is no need to have a separate field for both the Huskies and Hilltops.  The field is out of date and the upgrades will make it dangerous for players.  It was a poorly conceived idea from the start.

Plus, this commercial makes a lot more sense when a high school actually has a “home field”.

The Weekend In Sports

First the positives:

The negatives

  • Sure it is good to see the Houston Texans get an offense but boy do the Pittsburgh Steelers look old.  It’s early and you don’t want to count the Steelers out but I can’t help but wonder if there won’t be a drastically different looking Steelers roster for next season.
  • Let’s not talk about what happened in Green Bay.  Denver is not a very talented team yet.  Shanahan’s last couple of drafts were horrible and the only decent player that McDaniel’s brought in was Eric Decker.  It’s going to be a while until they are back on top.
  • What can you say about the Saskatchewan Roughriders other than they are not a very good team.  Grandpa coming back gave them a spark but I have been saying since last season that just because Ken Miller was a good assistant coach, it doesn’t make him a good personnel man.  That and I have been terrified of Brendan Taman running the team ever since they brought him in.  Look at what he did to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and how long it took them to recover.
  • Dear Buffalo Bills.  You lost to the Cincinnati Bengals.  Really?  Rookie QB, lame duck coach, apathetic fans and you still lost to them.  You should be ashamed.

Municipal Matters get a new look

While I liked the old version of Sean Shaw’s blog, Municipal Matters, I am really liking the new look and feel to his blog on Saskatoon politics and governance.  If you get a chance, check it out along with a couple other Saskatoon civic blogs that are a lot of fun reading, even when we find ourselves on different sides of the same issue.

While on the topic of city hall, Dave Hutton’s post points out that the province could be tossing some money into Gordie Howe Bowl, something I have been saying needs to be done since I was 12.  Seriously, since I was 12 I have been telling anyone who cared that Gordie Howe Bowl has tremendous potential as an entertainment destination.  I wonder if I put up a PayPal link if we could get enough donations in to get the naming rights. If Stephen Colbert can get a urinal on the space station named after him…