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Research on products such as artificial turf is potentially exposed to the same types of industry bias as research on pharmaceuticals
  1. John Orchard
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Orchard, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, johnworchard{at}gmail.com

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Imagine your surprise if you were walking through a gardening store and saw a packet of perennial ryegrass seed with the following notification label: “This product has been specifically designed to provide the safest playing surface for football and to protect the knees of young athletes.” Interestingly, there are scientific data to back up that claim.1 The surprise would come because such a claim would be unexpected. Nobody owns a patent for ryegrass (Lolium perenne is a naturally occurring species), and so there is little commercial benefit in lobbying to claim that it is a safer product.

FieldTurf and definition of ‘independent’ study

By contrast, it is not much of a surprise to click on a webpage such as http://www.fieldturf.com/en/fieldturf-difference/proven-safety and find claims that a proprietary artificial turf system reduces injuries. A for-profit company is very interested in promoting scientific data which suggest that their product reduces injury and is equally interested in arguing against any data otherwise. On the FieldTurf ‘Proven safety’ webpage, data are presented from two studies that claim to be ‘independent’ and purport to show the superior safety record of the product compared to natural grass.2 ,3 The webpage does not mention that FieldTurf funded both these ‘independent’ studies. This does not imply that the data from these studies are incorrect, but that the study should be read in the context that it is actually not independent and therefore potentially not free from …

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