Proof is in: Hockey Visors Reduce Eye Injuries
Hockey players have a high risk of eye injury – flying pucks, high sticking and speedy skating all contribute to the chance of hurting their eyes and possibly damaging their vision. Research has provided evidence that visor use can significantly lessen these risks. Whether you're catching a game of pond hockey with friends or playing in a league, visors are a necessary part of your uniform.
A study conducted by researchers based at the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School shows that wearing visors in the National Hockey League (NHL) could cause a four-fold decrease in the risk of eye injuries. The researchers examined data from The Sports Network (TSN) and The Hockey News annual visor survey over the last 10 years. They found that there were 149 eye injuries during that time – and that the risk of eye injury is 4.23 times higher for players who do not wear a visor. They also found that the majority of eye injuries are caused by being hit by the puck or struck by a high stick (37 percent and 28 percent, respectively). Only 18 percent of eye injuries were caused by a fight or scrum, while the researchers could not identify the cause for 17 percent of eye injuries.
While eye injuries are a serious risk to professional hockey players and have in some cases ended careers, visors remain optional for the majority of hockey players in the NHL. In June 2013, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association agreed to require visors for players who are new to the league. Players who had played more than 26 games in the NHL may elect not to wear visors through a grandfather clause. The mandate came three months after New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal suffered a puck hit that resulted in a retinal tear (in which part of the retina – light sensitive tissue lining in the back of the eye – gets pulled out of place) and orbital fracture (a fracture in the structure of bones that support the eye).
Many players who come to the NHL from other leagues may already be accustomed to wearing the visors, as they are required in the Canadian Hockey League and the American Hockey League. They are also required for any player born after 1974 in Olympic hockey.
The research was the first to examine the incidence of eye injuries across multiple seasons and also calculated the associated financial loss to NHL franchises – totaling more than $32 million. Hockey is a high-risk sport for eye injury and as games become faster and players get stronger, the risks will continue to increase, so it is important to maximize protection. For anyone taking to the ice for a hockey game the first goal should be protective eye wear.