sports gazette

Women's World Cup Injuries Still A Concern

Photo: Will Medlock
Published: 2 May 2015

The phrase 'world cup controversy' might now, and forever, be inextricably linked with Qatar 2022. Yet, in just one month, another football world cup will commence having endured its own public storm.

The women’s World Cup in Canada has been mired in protest. The objections have been predominantly by the players, with a legal battle even threatening to gain serious traction.

The crux of the matter comes down to the fact that the women will compete on artificial turf, instead of the traditional grass surface. The issue appeared to be a cultural one; that men would not be asked to play on anything other than grass at such a prestigious event.

Cries of sexism clouded the air at FIFA, whose headquarters in Zurich is accustomed to pollution swirling above their heads. A legal challenge ensued, before the players dropped proceedings and accepted their fate.

In an attempt to understand why the players felt so strongly about the choice of surface, Sports Gazette spoke to Natalie Turner, who works as a sports rehabilitator at St Mary’s University. Turner regularly deals with astro-turf-related injuries and believes the concern expressed by the players is not misplaced.

You're talking a month for a graze to heal because you're constantly going over on it.

 “It’s not as if one group [gender] is more likely to get injured than the others. I would have concerns about that,” said Turner.

“I’m surprised that artificial turf is as good as grass would be. Not in terms of playing surface because it doesn’t get muddy or waterlogged. However, going in for a sliding tackle, the impact will be greater.”

Artificial surfaces are currently used by some men’s clubs in England, including Maidstone United, who will play in the sixth tier of English football next season. Andorra’s national team are also permitted to play on an artificial surface, however Gareth Bale called it “the worst pitch he’s ever played on” when his Welsh team won there in September 2014.

Turner, who primarily works with a local hockey team, also backed up claims that the surface induces more injuries than grass.

“I deal with a lot of astro burns, so knees and knuckles,” she said.

“Obviously it’s (hockey) a non-contact sport so there’s not a huge amount of rolling around on the floor.

“There are different types of astro-turf. Mainly the hockey is played on water-based astro. Where the guys train they have a water base and then they have hybrid, which is a combination of water and sand and then all the players complain about that pitch, that is increases tendinopathies.

“So, that’s tendon problems or patellar tendon problems and they’re exacerbated by it. Generally players feel stiffer coming off that pitch particularly, so they’ll request more treatments like hamstring rubs.”

There seems to be a strange paradox concerning the all-weather pitches. A surface designed to make athlete’s lives easier could actually make it harder to recover, as Turner concedes.

“You’re talking a month for a graze to heal, because you’re constantly going over on it,” she said.

“The worst I’ve seen recently was a graze burn on the arm that actually got infected. There was tracking all the way down the arm and that took some looking after.”

Simply because the players have dropped their legal case does not mean the outcome is the correct one. The cultural issues surrounding the women’s game are perpetually layered, with the politics engulfing the women’s tournament in Canada a prime example.

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