Protective eyewear may reduce concussion rates in field hockey


August 24, 2015

Topic: heat related illnesses

When it comes to concussions, field hockey is not the first sport that comes to mind. However, this injury, as well as eye injuries, can happen without the right protection. Luckily, simply wearing eyewear may help significantly reduce those chances.

When it comes to concussions, field hockey is not the first sport that comes to mind. However, this injury, as well as eye injuries, can happen without the right protection. Luckily, simply wearing eyewear may help significantly reduce those chances.

Head injuries, including concussions, are six times more likely to happen in a game than in practice. Aside from head and eye injuries, players are also at risk of experiencing knee injuries, ankle sprains, and heat-related illnesses. Approximately 71 percent of head injuries happen near the goal or within 25 yards of it. This may be because players attempt to take a shot at the goal from far away and another player ends up in the direction of the ball. As field hockey balls are made of hard plastic, a ball with serious force behind it could cause significant eye or head damage. While eye goggles help protect the area around the eye, there is little to no protection on the rest of the head.

Researchers from the University of Colorado and Boston Children's Hospital found that high school field hockey athletes who wore protective eyewear on the field were less likely to experience any type of eye injury or concussion than those who did not. In 2011, the National Federation of State High School Associations mandated that all field hockey players wear eyewear while playing on the field. Before

"Approximately 71 percent of head injuries happen near the goal or within 25 yards of it."

that, it was up to the high school, and that led to a lot of injuries. However, certain areas that are not sanctioned by the association can still choose not to wear eyewear, which is concerning. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics. 

"The governing organizations for amateur field hockey remain reluctant to endorse eye protection in amateur elite field hockey. Meanwhile developmental, college and national level field hockey coaches and programs have voiced concern that MPEs will jeopardize international recruitment efforts, as no other country mandates eyewear protection, and hurt the ability of the U.S. national teams to remain competitive internationally," said lead study author Dr. Peter Kriz.

The study authors collected their results from players between the ages of 14 and 18. The researchers studied the injury rates during two seasons before the mandate was implemented, and two seasons after it was put into place. The findings revealed that states that did not make it mandatory to wear eyewear either before or after the ruling had much higher injury rates than states that asked players to wear protection before they hit the field. After the mandate was put in place, the number of eye injuries decreased by 67 percent. Head and face injuries dropped by 70 percent.

The researchers concluded that these results suggest that mandating players wear protective eyewear was the right move. In the past, people have criticized the idea of wearing protective eyewear, believing that it could increase the rate of concussions. The idea was that players could be less likely to see a ball coming at their heads or may play more aggressively with the eyewear on. However, the results proved there were no differences in the rates of concussions between the seasons before the mandate and after it. The study authors also noted that other sports are beginning to adopt similar policies asking players to wear protective face masks.

Hopefully, the trends will keep pushing toward protecting field hockey players from sustaining concussions and eye injuries. The researchers believe that their findings will push toward more widespread mandates. 


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