Protective field hockey eyewear met with positivity

New protective eyewear for field hockey, seen here worn by a pair of Tunkhannock Area players, mandated by PIAA has been met with favor by area programs and medical professionals. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN WOODRUFF

BY KEVIN WOODRUFF

A new regulation from PIAA mandating the wearing of face masks for field hockey has been met favorably by local programs.

Although at first some players were reluctant to wear the masks, they are quickly learning their value.

Sandra Spott, varsity coach for the Lackawanna Trail field hockey program said that her players took to wearing the masks quickly, and have already adjusted to the new gear.

“Our girls are fine with it,” Spott said on Friday. “We’ve already had a girl hit in the face and the mask protected her.”

Spott said that most of her players have indicated that they haven’t noticed any significant negative effects from the masks.

“They don’t seem to notice that it’s there,” Spott said. “A few of the girls at first said it was more difficult to look down, but have since gotten used to it.”

Lackawanna Trail is using metal wire masks to protect their players.

Spott indicated that she has seen some teams wearing a different style that is more along the lines of a ski mask.

“Some of the teams are wearing the goggles, and say they have the tendency to fog up,” Spott said. “But so far, ours are working just fine.”

Melissa Mertz, assistant executive director at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association (PIAA) said that the National Federation of State High Schools has been pushing for mandatory protective eyewear for several years, and last spring pushed harder than ever.

“Because it is a safety issue, we adopted it right away,” Mertz said. “However, we will monitor the results of using the eyewear to see its effectiveness.”

Dr. David Ross, Director of Geisinger Sports Medicine Fellowship program, said that while he hasn’t seen a significant number of injuries in field hockey in the face, he agrees with the necessity for the masks.

“There is the possibility for injury that could be detrimental to the eye,” Ross said. “And studies have shown that equipment is 90 percent effective at preventing injury to the eye.”

Ross also noted that while there haven’t been a large number of studies pertaining to how masks would protect against concussion, he said there’s always a possibility.

“I’m in favor of this new ruling,” Ross said. “If it was my child playing, I would want their eyes protected.”

While many area teams are using the wire masks, Ross believes that the goggle style masks are sufficient.

Ross noted that he isn’t sure why it took as long as it did for the PIAA to implement the new regulation, but he is in favor of it.

He said the mandate came after a risk and benefit analysis was conducted, and it was decided that it would have a positive effect on the safety of athletes.

“There is a lot of constant action in close proximity in a sport like field hockey,” Ross said. “And there’s always that potential for an injury.”

That possibility was real for an athlete onElkLake’s varsity field hockey team.

Coach Heidi Woodruff noted that despite many of her players complaining about the masks at first, they quickly changed their tune after a close call during a scrimmage with Windsor (N.Y.) on Thursday afternoon.

“I know the majority of my team has complained about the protective eyewear being uncomfortable and decreasing visibility,” Woodruff said. “However, we already had one player get hit in the eye while wearing the eye gear and it prevented her from a potentially serious injury.”