Are Full-Face Shields Making Ice Hockey a More Dangerous Sport?
Facial protection is "one of the most controversial or heated discussion
topics in the sport" because the players think it will restrict their
vision, says Meeuwisse. "A few players say, 'If I have a full face
protector on, I can't see the puck at my feet.'"
"The great thing about this study -- and the reason we're so confident
about the results -- is that we had a natural experiment, exactly the same
caliber of players, same rules, same officiating, same ice surface, same
everything. The only difference was the facial protection," says Meeuwisse,
who is also team physician for the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames.
While their results might be applied to high school-level play, "we
can't say that's true," says Meeuwisse. "When you get into less mature
players, young adults, [the effect] might be different. Full-face shields might
have a different effect on an immature neck or an immature head."
Lori Livingston, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology and physical
education at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, has also
researched the issue. She provided independent commentary on the study
for WebMD, calling it "solid work."
"My major comment [is] they could have gone a step further. It's rather
disturbing that there were still 34 head and face injuries, even when wearing
full-face shield," says Livingston, who has played college-level hockey and
coached women's field lacrosse.
The way in which games are officiated should be addressed, she adds.
"Because players are wearing equipment, officials tend to be more lenient.
We should have very strict rule enforcement. Any injury up around the face
should be a penalty."
While officials attempt to control players' behavior, "to be fair to the
officials, there are [only] so many things you can control, and you can't
anticipate that a player is going to do something illegal. You can see it and
react to it, but you can't necessarily stop it from happening. ... Coaches and
players need to understand that their attitudes need to be under control as
- Because of the aggressive nature of hockey, some colleges are requiring
players to wear full-face shields.
- Hockey players who wear full-face shields do not have an increased risk of
head and neck injuries and experience fewer facial and dental injuries than
those who wear half-face shields.
- One expert says that the number of hockey injuries is still too high, and
officials, coaches, and players need to change their attitudes about the