Study says: Protective eyewear benefits field hockey players
A new study on nationally mandated protective eyewear for high school girls field hockey players found a greater than three-fold reduced risk of eye and orbital injuries – without increasing rates of concussion – by wearing them.
The study was conducted by researchers at Hasbro Children's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Fairfax (Va.) County Public Schools and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
"The results of this study support a policy change regarding mandatory protective eyewear (MPE) in field hockey at all amateur levels, both in practice and competition," said Dr. Peter Kriz, the study's principal investigator and co-author, and sports medicine physician at Hasbro Children's Hospital. "Critics of protective eyewear in field hockey have voiced concerns that the eyewear increases concussion rates due to loss of peripheral vision and increased player-to-player contact. Our study found that concussion rates did not change as a result of the national MPE."
Each academic year, more than 64,000 girls participate in high school-sanctioned field hockey in the United States.
Head, facial and eye injuries are common among field hockey players and, occasionally, catastrophic. In 2011, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) issued a protective eyewear mandate requiring all high school field hockey players to wear protective eyewear in NFHS-sanctioned competitions. However, protective eyewear remains voluntary in non-NFHS sanctioned competitions and other field hockey-related play.
"Other youth sports such as baseball and softball are gradually adopting use of protective facemasks for batters, pitchers and infielders,” Kriz said. "Professional ice hockey has made significant strides in implementing mandated visor use over the past decade. In comparison, the governing organizations for amateur field hockey remain reluctant to endorse eye protection in amateur elite field hockey.”
The study, currently online and appearing in the September 2015 print issue of Pediatrics, examined injuries among high school field hockey players 14 to18 years of age two seasons prior (2009-10, 2010-11) and two seasons following (2011-12, 2012-13) the NFHS implementation of a national mandate requiring the use of protective eyewear for all HS field hockey players, effective during the 2011-12 season.
"We remain hopeful that our study results will persuade the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to mandate protective eyewear use among its student athletes," said Kriz. "Additionally, we are hoping to close some of the loopholes which permit middle- and high-school players to participate in games, practices, camps, tournaments and showcases without protective eyewear."
Researchers found that the incidence of eye and orbital injuries was significantly higher in states without mandated protective eyewear than in states with MPE (before the 2011/12 mandate) and the post-mandate group. There was no significant difference in concussion rates for the two groups. After the 2011/12 MPE, severe eye and orbital injuries were reduced by 67 percent and severe and/or medically disqualifying head and face injuries were reduced by 70 percent.
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