Let's start turf war at BMO Field

STEVEN SANDOR -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

The Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment empire recently announced it is spending $4 million for a new dehumidification system for the Air Canada Centre, which will improve the quality of the ice at the arena.

Now, if only MLSE could outlay some bucks to put in real grass to replace the FieldTurf at BMO Field.

I am a purist; I don't like seeing the game played on FieldTurf, even if it has been approved by FIFA. Admittedly, there is no definitive proof linking the turf to Toronto FC's ridiculous injury list, it is interesting to note that a club with new FieldTurf on its home ground has seven regulars out of the lineup, many due to non-contact injuries such as hip flexors, hamstrings and bad knees.

To be fair, I asked striker Danny Dichio about his hip flexor problem, and he didn't think BMO Field was to blame.

"It's not really an excuse," he said. "I really don't know if the turf has anything to do with it. Really, back in England, at this time of year, in the summertime, the grass fields are just as hard."

Alexi Lalas, the general manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy, said he can understand why new MLS clubs like Toronto FC choose the plastic stuff over real grass.

"I understand the economics of it," said Lalas. "Until we can raise ticket prices to the point where it's viable to have a grass surface, this is what we will see. Grass is very expensive to maintain."

In multi-use stadiums, grass needs to be replaced after it's trampled by concertgoers or other sporting events, said Lalas. But, as a counterpoint, what other events are happening at BMO Field other than footie? One Genesis concert? Hey, and is Genesis still finishing its shows with a tour de force version of "The Cinema Show?"

But Lalas did admit FieldTurf does have its problems.

"After you play on it, you take longer to recover," he said. So, teams that play on FieldTurf; Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake and New York should have more accumulated wear on their joints than those who play on grass.

Just as there are a lot of apologists for fake turf, it has plenty of opponents. Even though Argentina won the U-20 World Cup on the fake stuff, coach Hugo Tocalli said he wouldn't recommend any teams back home play on the stuff.

"The synthetic field will cause complications," he said after a pre-tourney friendly against Canada. "Real soccer is played on grass fields, not on a synthetic one."

Martin O'Neill, Aston Villa's coach, said FIFA officials should "have their heads examined" for allowing FieldTurf as a legal playing surface. He said this in a friendly against Toronto FC in which he saw his No. 1 keeper, Tomas Sorenson, go down with a non-contact hamstring injury.

I go back to the FIFA paper that led to wide-scale acceptance of FieldTurf; in a study of the 2005 U-17 Championship held in Peru, staged on a mix of artificial and natural surfaces, FIFA notes there was no difference in the number of injuries on grass and FieldTurf.

But, look further and you will find there is a difference in the nature of injuries. According to FIFA's numbers, only 14 per cent of the injuries on grass were "non-contact." But, on the turf, the number of non-contact injuries rose to 22 per cent.

That means your chances of getting an injury caused simply by running or tripping on your own almost doubled when you played on artificial surface.

Hmm ... 


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