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Shedding Light on Turf Burns: What are the Risks? Solutions?

October 1, 2013

It is a boom time for turf fields across American cities and suburbs. And rightly so. Some of the benefits of turf over natural grass include: greater durability, less maintenance cost, and less resource requirements (ie. no fertilizers or water required).

But turf fields also raise some health concerns. One major knock against the surface is that it causes burns or abrasions that get exploited by bacteria, namely Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), a type of staph infection.

PPRC recently dug into this topic as part of a Rapid Response query to determine if UVC cleaning of turf represents an appropriate solution to the risk of MRSA infections. Here’s a summary of what we found:

First, the threat of MRSA is real. It is one of the more lethal infectious diseases in the U.S.. Sports that require more contact and more ground time, such as football and wrestling, see the highest rates of infection in America, according to the CDC.

Though no definitive study suggests that turf fields cause higher rates of MRSA infections than natural grass, we do know that a number of risk factors increase transmission of MRSA. To limit the risk of infection, turf fields require proper cleaning maintenance. Other preventive health practices include: (CDC, University of Rochester)

  • not sharing athletic gear or towels,
  • disinfecting weights and other athletic facility equipment,
  • disinfecting helmets and other protective gear frequently and per manufacturer’s instructions,
  • washing hands frequently and effectively, and using hand sanitizer,
  • covering existing wounds, and,
  • promptly and effectively treating new wounds.  

For sanitizing turf, facilities have a number of treatment options, such as: detergents, ozone, and UVC. UVC treatment, which employs the high energy c-band of the UV light spectrum to destroy bacteria cells, has long been considered an effective and non-toxic treatment for eliminating bacterial risks in foods, water, and other surfaces. The success of this method on turf, however, is scientifically unproven. A few internal, non-peer-reviewed, studies champion the effectiveness of UV light’s turf cleansing power. But many facilities – from high school to professional football teams – currently employ UVC technology. The GreenZapr, a product of GreensGroomer Worldwide, is used on fields throughout the country, and boasts an impressive list of references and testimonials.

Those interested in more info about the effectiveness of UVC turf cleaning can check out the full Rapid Response report here. Interested parties might include: facility managers, maintenance crew, and concerned players, parents, and coaches.

 

- Communications Manager

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