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Archive for January 8, 2007

Jan. 8, 2007 — Incidences of injury, part 1

During the recently-concluded National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association meeting, I had a chance to talk with a high-school coach in a league which had exactly zero head injuries in 2006.

The league is the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, located in the southwestern corner of Connecticut.

The secret: every single member school has an artificial competition surface. No team plays on natural grass. The teams don’t have to deal with bumps, grass clumps, or divots.

Schools in the FCIAC have determined that the infrastructure investment in artificial grass will pay off in maintenance costs and playing safety in numerous sports, and not just field hockey.

Of course it’s not guaranteed that your head-injury incidence will zero out with an artificial pitch; virtually all of the fatal or near-fatal injuries in men’s field hockey the last 20 years has occurred on a surface other than grass.

Regrettably, in many places in New England such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, maintenance has been cut because the populace does not want to see school taxes rise. It is no wonder that Massachusetts, a state with a 2 1/2 percent cap on property taxes, was the first state to mandate eyewear for its field hockey players.

The cap has had other unintended consequences: the field hockey team at Hamilton-Wenham (Mass.) has been put on the chopping block along with wrestling and boys’ ice hockey for the second consecutive year.

Of course, nobody questions why the school doesn’t eliminate the most expensive sports, football. Nor does anyone seem to want to question why football fields on high-school campuses with dangerous grass hockey fields have perfectly manicured lawns for football teams.