Leading off today:
There are more than 11,000 synthetic turf sports fields in use in the United States according to figures from the Synthetic Turf Council, and crumb rubber fill is also used in playgrounds across the country.
That's why a report from NBC News has raised a new round of concerns about possible links between those fields and serious health issues. It was the subject of lengthy discussion on many radio talk shows Thursday and triggered a fresh wave of newspaper reporting as well.
The NBC investigation into artificial turf links it to cancers, especially those of the blood, although health officials are being cautious and industry spokesmen cite extensive research that has not uncovered a link. The network reported on data compiled by Amy Griffin, associate head coach for the University of Washington's women's soccer team, whose list of 38 U.S. soccer players who have been diagnosed with cancer includes 34 goalies who've played frequently on artificial turf. Though no research has said the material causes the disease, Griffin believes the black crumbs made of synthetic fibers and old tire bits beneath some newer brands of fields may be carcinogenic.
"I've coached for 26, 27 years," Griffin said. "My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids (getting sick)."
Griffin's compilation is by no means authoritative or scientific, but the ratio of goalkeepers afflicted with serious illnesses compared to field players is at once eye-catching and puzzling. The suspicion is that goalies are in more frequent contact with the turf as they make numerous dives at loose balls or opponents' shots. If that theory proves accurate, then the implications for football linemen and lacrosse faceoff midfielders is obvious.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission performed studies last decade, but both agencies recently backtracked on their assurances the material was safe, calling their studies "limited," NBC reported. While the EPA said in a statement that "more testing needs to be done," the agency also said it considered artificial turf to be a "state and local decision," and would not be commissioning further research.
The EPA refused requests from NBC News for an interview. It said in a statement that the agency "does not believe that the field monitoring data collected provides evidence of an elevated health risk resulting from the use of recycled tire crumb in playgrounds or in synthetic turf athletic fields."
Coach assaulted: A Gates Chili junior is facing a second-degree assault charge, a felony, for allegedly punching varsity football coach Jason Benham on Thursday, Rochester media reported.
The Gates Police Department said Davarcea J. Fort, 17, who is not a football layer, entered a locker room with three other students around 2:50 p.m. and got into a verbal confrontation with some players and Benham. Benham was struck in the right eye by Fort during the incident, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
Police Chief James VanBrederode said he believed Fort was the only student who hit the coach, and police are still trying to locate one suspect. District Superintendent Kimberle Ward said at least two of the suspects are juveniles. She said that disciplinary hearings will be held for all students involved.
Fort is scheduled to appear at Gates Town Court on Wednesday. He is being held on $5,000 cash bail, WHAM-TV reported.
Change made: Bill Roos resigned as coach of the winless Roy C. Ketcham football team Thursday, assistant athletics coordinator Joe Luzzi told the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Luzzi said defensive coordinator Ed Coviello will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season. The Indians