Jan 29, 2015
All Eyes on Field Hockey

By Patrick Bohn

When it comes to student-athlete safety, one of the most challenging things to balance is making sure equipment protects players without being intrusive. A new eye protection rule in high school field hockey is the most recent to struggle with the problem.
For some coaches and players, the problem isn’t the rule itself as much as the lack of a decent style of protection for the athletes to use. The National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) rule, which mandates the use of protective eyewear by players during games, was passed in April. It requires protective eyewear that meets the current American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard for field hockey, but does specify a model.

Currently field hockey players choose from two models. One is the cage goggle. Similar to what girls’ lacrosse players use, the cage goggle has metal bars covering a player’s eyes. Unfortunately, the bars can also cut directly across a player’s field of vision. Another common complaint is that the cage goggle’s padding limits players’ peripheral vision.

“The basic difference is the reduction of peripheral vision,” Terry Walsh, Technical Director of High Performance at USA Field Hockey, told the The Patriot-News. “You take away a major source of a player’s information gathering, and decision making is built around that information. That could be dangerous. If you don’t see things next to you, you go where you shouldn’t be going. Head collisions could be a major problem.”

There’s also speculation that cage goggles may cause injuries directly. Earlier this season, a Virginia high school player collided with an opponent and suffered a cut that required 10 stitches. Her father thinks the cut resulted when the metal frame of her opponent’s goggles slashed her forehead.

A California coach has this opinion:

“I don’t think any research was done into whether there was a field hockey-only goggle,” Torrey Pines (Calif.) Head Coach Kari DiGiulio told the North County Times. “I doubt anyone took into account that lacrosse is played with the players looking up and field hockey is played with players looking down.”

The second option is clear goggles. Mimicking ski goggles, they have a propensity to fog up, severely hindering vision. Tinted goggles make it difficult for players to see in night games.

“No matter what kind you have, you can’t see a defender coming at you,” Hannah Drawbridge, a player at La Costa Canyon (Calif.) told the Times

While coaches agree that the idea behind the rule–a reduction in injuries–is admirable, some feel the execution has been lacking.

“Obviously it’s good people care about the safety of the kids,” Jill Martz-Yisrael, Line Mountain (Pa.) High School Head Coach, told The Daily Item. “However, I think they’re trying to protect kids but not thinking realistically about what causes injury in games.”

Another point of discussion is whether eye injuries occur at a high enough rate to necessitate such a rule change.

“We are also concerned that the decision [to introduce protective eyewear] in the sport of hockey is not based on credible injury evidence,” Simon Hoskins, Marketing Director for USA Field Hockey, told the News. “We haven’t seen any strong, credible evidence of injuries. There’s a lack of information on that in our sport.”

Elliot Hopkins, NFHS Director of Educational Services and Field Hockey Rules Editor, told High School Today the rule was needed.

“While serious eye injuries in field hockey at the high school level are rare, the NFHS Board of Directors has concluded that an eyewear requirement is the right step,” he said.

Mike Burnham, Assistant Director of the Maine Principals’ Association, agrees.

“It is my feeling that if a rule such as the mandatory wearing of eyewear promotes student safety and may save an athlete’s eye, then it is a rule worth having in place at the national level,” he told High School Today.

Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at
Training & Conditioning.


As you know, many in the field hockey community are upset with this mandate for a wide ranch of reasons.

Some points I didn’t see in your piece. There are those who feel the NFHS’s action was an act of sexism because there are more eye injuries in sports played predominately by boys but the NFHS took this action “against” a sport played (in the USA) predominately by girls. Others felt that the NFHS must have received some sort of pay off because requiring goggles would generate (did generate) about $5,000,000 in sales. Finally, other just felt goggles were a solution looking for a problem. I for one, and I’ve been playing, coaching and umpiring since the late 1970s, and have never seen an injury that goggles would have prevented.

Now that the nationwide mandate has been in effect for a season what has the result been? I figured, why not find out?

GoggleInjury.com is the first and only nationally available, standard reporting mechanism that is open to the public for reporting goggle related injuries. Without releasing personal information, data will be reported to the NFHS and researchers studying the impact that mandating goggles has actually had on the sport of field hockey.

I launched the site on September 27th. In less then a week, more than two dozen goggle related injuries were reported. We’re seeing two injuries being reported per day!

The reports have come in from California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Nearly 100% of the reports claim that goggles caused or made the injury worse.

Thus far, what we know with certainty from the reports (more than 70 as I write this) is that the goggles on the market today are NOT SAFE. If goggles were a drug, the FDA would have them pulled from the market.

I hope you’ll share this information and the other details that are on the site with your readers if you have a chance to update your reporting on the issue.


Thank you,

Cristopher Maloney
Task Force Member — GoggleInjury.com

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