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Archive for January 20, 2007

Jan. 20, 2007 — In summation

bandyplayer.JPGOver the last two weeks, this blog has laid out a multi-part argument as to why eyewear should not be mandated in National Federation play. It is the belief of many in the field hockey community that the need for eyewear not only does not exist, but can lead to a slippery slope that will one day lead to the equipping of American field hockey players with the bandy headgear seen here at left.

Field hockey eyewear is wrongheaded for several reasons. Any call for eyewear comes from a patriarchical need to protect young female athletes rather than from a willingness to empower them. That empowerment comes from training players to tackle correctly and play the game safely by using proper tackling angles and not jabbing recklessly at the ball.

In addition, field hockey teams across America must be provided with a flat artificial grass or turf pitch, or a well-tended grass competition surface enforced by local umpiring chapters, backed by actions of the local, regional, or state governing bodies of scholastic sport.

If players are taught how to play safely on a proper pitch, the risks in playing field hockey, as we have shown, are exceedingly small compared to other athletic endeavors. Most injuries at the top levels of Olympic team-sport play are the result of non-contact injuries. And in fact, field hockey grades out to be one of the safest of all sports; one orthopedist said to me, “You’d have more chance getting hurt crossing the street than playing field hockey.”

Ironically, there have been a number of serious injuries to players who have been forced to wear goggles, since they have been given a false sense of security without being taught how to play defense properly and safely, and athletic departments have been given a free pass when it comes to the proper maintenance of bumpy and illegally-cut grass pitches. More serious injuries, leading from the lack of peripheral vision, may occur if eyewear is mandated, especially if two players competing for the ball have their heads down.

Compulsory eyewear will retard our country’s competitiveness on the world stage, just as our women have managed a sixth-place finish at the World Cup and have capped a pair of high-schoolers the last two years. That would be impossible if goggles were imposed in Federation play, since our high-school players will have impaired vision.

It might be enough to make top field hockey prospects may gravitate towards non-Federation schools (such as Pennsylvania’s Inter-Ac Conference or the New England preparatory schools) where FIH rules are observed.

And there could be other unintended consequences … such as a silver lining for boys. The imposition of eyewear would give rise to an argument which says that boys should be allowed to play the game in the United States (on boys’ teams, mind you) because eyewear is an all-powerful protective panacea against injury.

But seriously, we all know the real reason why there is a push to put eyewear on field hockey players — about 70,000 reasons at $50 each. And doctors in cahoots with equipment manufacturers have been allowed to reintroduce the eyewear mandate year after year, sometimes not fighting fair by threatening lawsuits, hiding under a veil of secrecy, and pushing false data.

It’s time this issue is put to rest once and for all. Compulsory eyewear must be stopped.