July 20, 2020
Goggles will no longer be required for players in high school field hockey, the National Federation of State High School Associations announced.
A rule change approved by the organization’s board will take effect with the upcoming 2020 season.
The NFHS Field Hockey Rules Book currently states that “All field players shall wear eye protection that met the ASTM standard for field hockey (2713) at the time of manufacture.” The wording is being changed to state that “Goggles may be worn by all field hockey players.”
Goggles were mandated by the NFHS Board of Directors in 2011 with the intent to lessen the risk of catastrophic eye injuries. But several concerns have arisen, NFHS states on its website.
The federation explains: “While there is a required ASTM standard for field hockey goggles, there is no NOCSAE standard, which is preferred as NOCSAE’s aim is to protect against worst case injury. The ASTM 2713 standard is not protective against a direct ball to the eye in testing. NOCSAE will not certify any facial/eye protection unless it is integrated into a helmet.”
Additionally, ASTM-certified goggles are not available for all field players, notably those who wear corrective lenses. State associations have been issuing waivers for students with corrective lenses.
And, according to NFHS, “No significant research data has indicated that goggles have reduced the number of eye injuries, particularly those of a catastrophic nature.”
Finally, the wearing of goggles “has created a higher risk concern regarding the penalty corner.”
“Under the current eyewear rule, players cannot remove their goggles to wear full facemasks on penalty corners, which is the most dangerous play in the sport. Now, players can elect to wear corner masks,” according to the federation.
“Given the fact that the previous rule that required goggles did not completely lessen the risk of catastrophic eye injuries, and that the product does not exist for players with corrective lenses, and that there is no NOCSAE standard for field hockey goggles, and that the wearing of goggles prevents players from wearing corner masks on penalty corners, the Board believed it was time to make the rule permissive in nature rather than mandatory,” said Julie Cochran, director of sports and liaison to the Field Hockey Rules Committee.
State associations, schools and parents can still elect to require the use of goggles, NFHS notes.
One study concluded that “nationally mandated protective eyewear results in a greater than three-fold reduced risk of eye and orbital injuries in high school field hockey players without increasing rates of concussion,” the Baltimore Sun reports. It was conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.