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The Center For Disease Control (CDC), provides an extensive collection of information about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Staphylococcus aureus (Staph).  Included in this collection is additional research on the causes and processes available to eliminate the threat posed by the harmful bacteria. Founded on July 1, 1946, the CDC has been the leading authority on everything disease related.  For over 60 years the CDC has been the go-to source for research and information. Outlined and thoroughly researched by the CDC, there are five things responsible for the spread of MRSA and Staph. The five “C’s” represent the basic outline that all facilities should remember and practice adhering too.

The Five “C’s” of Spreading MRSA and Staph

  1. Crowding
  2. Frequent Skin to Skin Contact
  3. Compromised Skin (cuts, scrapes, small abrasions)
  4. Contaminated Items (sweaty towels, clothes, mats, synthetic turf)
  5. Cleanliness

Let’s take a closer look at the 5 “C’s”. One thing the C’s have in common are sports and sports surfaces like artificial turf. Additional areas of concern include locker rooms and wrestling mats. You would be hard pressed to convince me that football, a sport the CDC has labeled as high risk for a possible Staph infection is not high risk.  Football, when played on an artificial turf field, has all the five “C’s” outlined by the CDC.

There are Those Who Believe MRSA and Staph Should Not Be Spoken About

Believe it or not, some people might try to tell you that artificial turf provides no risk when it comes to MRSA or Staph. Artificial turf manufacturers are often selling the million dollar field to schools without full disclosure. Only when potential customers or parents bring up the topic of safety will artificial turf manufacturers discuss those concerns.

Voices Grow Louder and The Solution is a “Scientific Study”?

When parents or administrators raise the level of concern about MRSA and Staph, some turf manufacturers serve up B.S. Artificial turf manufacturers love to reference one particular “scientific study” conducted by the Ph.D. researcher, Andy McNitt at Penn State University. The self-promoting artificial turf organization that provides the spoon-fed “research” to potential artificial turf field buyers and the public, in general, is the Synthetic Turf Council.

The “Scientific Study” Used as A Sales Prop Lacks Substance

You can read the full “study”, Survival of Staphylococcus aureus on Synthetic Turf, if you want to see a lot of numbers and jargon about how long Staph lives on different sports surfaces. This study was attempting to prove that crumb rubber does not harbor MRSA and it did just that. And you know what? Sports Turf Northwest agrees, as do many other industry experts that crumb rubber does not harbor MRSA and Staph.  The word “harbor”, is a deflection from the real issues. Wordsmith is a great word for what is happening.

14 Pages And The Study Forgot To Add Legitimacy To Its Point

After dissecting the 14-page report, I can tell you one thing; The Entire Study Ignores the Five “C’s”.  There is no possible argument that can deny the connection between artificial turf MRSA and Staph.  Artificial turf and harmful microorganisms like Staph share all the five C’s. Would you gamble your child’s life on factual information from the CDC or a 14-page report that skips over the topic altogether?  School boards, facility operators and parents, you must do your own reading and research, do not believe my words alone.

MRSA and Staph infections from synthetic turf
What a MRSA infection can look like. Photographed by Gregory Moran, MD and found on the CDC website.

Study Examples

Andy McNitt has completed several studies for Penn State on the matter of MRSA and synthetic turf. Here is an excerpt from a different study, Human Health Issues on Synthetic Turf in The USA.

A pair of studies focusing on two separate outbreaks of MRSA each examined the causes and the role of infilled synthetic turf in infection. Kazakova et al. [19] examined an MRSA outbreak among five members of the St Louis Rams, a professional football team in the USA that plays on infilled synthetic turf, and Begier et al. [20] studied an MRSA outbreak that occurred on a collegiate football team,also playing on synthetic turf.

Locker Rooms are Always the Scapegoat

Both studies concluded that turf burns caused by synthetic turf could facilitate skin infections through person-to-person contact; however, neither study suggested that the players contracted the infection directly from the synthetic turf. Kazakova et al. [19] and Begier et al. [20] each implicated poor sanitary conditions in locker rooms and training facilities together with physical contact between players as the most likely causes for the outbreaks. Begier et al. [20] also suggested that small cuts from body shaving provides an avenue for infection.

The Survival of Staphylococcus aureus on Synthetic Turf study also points to the risk for Staph being greatly reduced on outdoor synthetic turf. Another argument often made by turf manufacturers is that ultraviolet light from the sun kills Staph. This is entirely false. While there are some forms of ultraviolet light that kill Staph, specifically UVC, it is a scientific fact that the UVC spectrum of ultraviolet light is filtered by our ozone layer and never reaches the surface of the Earth.

Image result for melted shoes artificial turf
Laken Litman-USA Today Sports

Will The Sun Kill Staph?

In another stretched/skewed statement, you often hear the statement, it is the heat from the sun that kills Staph. It is well-known that synthetic turf reaches a hotter temperature than natural grass. If the sun heats the field to the required kill temperature for bacteria, the artificial turf is hot enough to be considered a serious health risk.

The truth is this; bacteria is killed at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a health danger to humans when the surface of the turf is that hot! The ideal temperature for growing bacteria is 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  Summer football practice season is the perfect opportunity for MRSA and Staph outbreaks at high schools, colleges, and professional sports facilities.

The information published by the CDC along with legitimate facts about UVC light and synthetic turf temperatures brings us to a conclusion.  We can safely determine that the study,  Survival of Staphylococcus aureus on Synthetic Turf, was unnecessary and can be disregarded. My opinion is that the study was an attempt to gloss over the truth instead of dealing with the health issues that synthetic turf fields pose for the safety of athletes.

Drawing a Conclusion to The Truth

Let’s stop the nonsense sales pitches today, and vow to engage in proactive protection of athletes. A sterilized artificial turf field is a safe field.  The message in this piece is about the health and safety of humans. Do not ignore the health risks. The money spent on this sales brochure “study” is gimmicky and lacks substance. Hospitals have realized the risks associated with MRSA and Staph. After reading what the CDC has published on the matter, there is no excuse for a “no maintenance mindset” when it comes to synthetic turf.  Turf manufacturers, do the right thing and educate the public of health issues related to synthetic turf.

Further Information From the CDC about MRSA and Staph Can Be Found Below:

Information and Advice about MRSA for: Coaches & Athletic Directors

Prevention Information and Advice for Athletes

Please Read These Additional Articles From Sports Turf Northwest on MRSA and Staph: 

Are Synthetic Turf Fields Full of Dangerous Bacterial Pathogens Like Staph?….You Bet They Are!

Bodily Fluids+Artificial Turf+Your Child=Serious Health Issues

“Scientific Studies” and Artificial Turf-B.S At It’s Finest

Artificial Turf Manufacturers are Acting Like Big Tobacco, Profits Over the Safety of Athletes

Indoor Soccer Arenas Are a Toxic Petri Dish of Human Bodily Fluids

The Consequences of a “No Maintenance” Mindset For Synthetic Turf Fields

Artificial Turf Manufacturers Need to Come Clean to Schools and Parks

MRSA Prevention, Symptoms, and Treatment

There are ways to make sure athlete safety against MRSA and Staph is followed. Chemicals are not the answer. Time proven UVC light is.