The Eyes Have It: Protective Eyewear

Mandated protective eyewear for high school hockey decreased injuries

Teens who play field hockey may be a little safer these days.

A new study from Brown University found fewer eye injuries for teen field hockey players after a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) protective eyewear mandate.

"Although eye injuries are infrequent, they tend to be severe and, on occasion, catastrophic," said lead study author Peter Kriz, MD, a sports medicine specialist and assistant professor at Brown, in a press release. "One in 25 field hockey players reportedly will experience an eye injury over an eight-year career."

In 2011, the NFHS issued a new ruling that required all high school field hockey players to wear protective eyewear.

The new rule applies only to NFHS-sanctioned games, however. Protective eyewear is still optional in other venues such as college games.

Dr. Kris and team looked at injury rates in girls’ field hockey for two seasons before and two seasons after the implementation of the 2011 rule.

In 206 high schools, players sustained 415 injuries to the head, face or eyes during the four-year period.

Injuries to the eyes included cuts, bruises and scratches on the cornea (the transparent front layer of the eye), eyebrow or eyelid lacerations and bruising.

Injuries during the pre-mandate period were found to be three times as high as after the mandate.

"Given the scientific evidence demonstrating that mandatory protective eyewear effectively reduces eye injuries in field hockey players without increasing concomitant injury such as concussion, research now exists to support a policy change regarding mandatory protective equipment in field hockey at all amateur levels, including developmental, college, national, and international levels," Dr. Kriz said.

This study was published in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Prevent Blindness America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.