Synthetic Turf Fields, Crumb Rubber, and Alleged Cancer Risk

Sports Med. 2017 Dec;47(12):2437-2441. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0735-x.


Most synthetic turf fields have crumb rubber interspersed among the simulated grass fibers to reduce athletic injuries by allowing users to turn and slide more readily as they play sports or exercise on the fields. Recently, the crumbs have been implicated in causing cancer in adolescents and young adults who use the fields, particularly lymphoma and primarily in soccer goalkeepers. This concern has led to the initiation of large-scale studies by local and federal governments that are expected to take years to complete. Meanwhile, should the existing synthetic turf fields with crumb rubber be avoided? What should parents, players, coaches, school administrators, and playground developers do? What should sports medicine specialists and other health professionals recommend? Use grass fields when weather and field conditions permit? Exercise indoors? Three basic premises regarding the nature of the reported cancers, the latency of exposure to environmental causes of cancer to the development of clinically detectable cancer, and the rarity of environmental causation of cancer in children, adolescents, and young adults suggest otherwise.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / toxicity*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Facility Design and Construction*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rubber / toxicity*
  • Soccer*
  • Sports
  • Sports Equipment / adverse effects*


  • Carcinogens, Environmental
  • Rubber