Lets say you have a really nice motorcycle. It’s a beautiful day so you decide to go for a ride. The mountains are calling so you prepare to hit the highway. Wallet? Check. Cell phone? Check. Map? Check. Gas? Check. Helmet? Nah; don’t need it.
Don’t need a helmet? “I like the wind in my hair.” Won’t it protect you? “It obscures my vision and I can’t see other cars.” But doesn’t it have a big, wide visor? “Fogs up in the cool mountain air.” Aren’t you worried? “I’ll roll the dice.”
As ridiculous as this sounds, this very argument is going on right now in the Field Hockey world. As our local teams get ready for playoffs it is extremely pertinent!
In April the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) mandated that all high school field hockey players be required to wear protective eyewear. They advised that 2 types of eyewear were acceptable: polycarbonate lens style and wire frame style. They also state that the equipment must meet the ASTM standard.
The ASTM is the American Society for Testing and Materials. They test and break and come up with suitable codes and standards for everything from automobile tires to construction beams to aircraft materials. They also create the standards for things like football helmets, allowable compression of baseballs, and protective eyewear for field hockey players.
The ASTM studied field hockey balls, sticks, players, velocities, fields, weather conditions, et cetera, et al. They looked at the strength of materials, and they looked at the amount of vision obstruction by design and by materials. If a lens created too much “haze and luminous transmittance” it was deemed unacceptable.
The NFHS accepted the ASTM findings as “word from the mountaintop” and made a ruling. Many players, coaches, and parents are now questioning the decision. One group is so passionate that they created a website, goggleinjury.com, that tracks and reports injuries and complaints about the wearing of certain types of protective eyewear. Their argument, and the argument of many others, is that the cage-style eyewear chosen by many players is inappropriate to the game and is more danger than it’s worth. Many of the cage-style goggles were designed for lacrosse, which is an air game, whereas field hockey is a ground game. They say that the goggles limit vision to the ground and air, which causes more collisions with players and sticks. They also began tracking the number of players needing stitches because of a collision with another players mask.
A recent article in the Virginia Pilot discussed just that. Still in preseason practice, two girls were sent for stitching up as a result of collisions with sticks and goggles. Other articles point to the idea that players wearing protective gear take bigger risks. An important aspect of field hockey is peripheral vision, and the constant search through a cage for the ball changes ones awareness of the field of play. Arguments against also point to the fact that wire cages rust, and any player with a contusion caused by contact with a cage would also now require a tetanus shot.
The NFHS is concerned with one thing: player safety. The ASTM is concerned with one thing: the integrity of a product. And as many groups that are out there arguing against the field hockey ruling, there are reputable groups backing up the NFHS. The Connecticut State Medical Society studied and reported on field hockey injuries, and stated that while eye injuries were rare, the use of protective eyewear was in the best interest of the state’s high school field hockey players.
When playing football, you wear a helmet. You wear one that fits, one that is current and sound, and you use it to protect. You’d be silly to face a good baseball pitcher without a good helmet. Soccer strikers sport shin guards and a volleyball dig is an exercise in pain without kneepads. When football was in its infancy, the helmet, if used at all, was a little leather cap. Technology and study have made it better and fewer players are injured as a result. Perhaps technology will come along and make something better for field hockey goggles. Until it does, we say strap them on! Why roll the dice with your eyesight if a sure thing is available? That’s why we sell them.