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Protective Eyewear News: National Federation of State High School Associations Eases Mandatory Eyewear Ruling

Under the new rule, players are no longer required to wear protective eyewear.




(PRESS RELEASE) The Vision Council releases an update regarding the current guidelines around protective eyewear for high school field hockey. Read the letter below:

Dear Members,

We are writing to share an update regarding the current guidelines around protective eyewear for high school field hockey. In 2020, The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) eased its rule requiring protective eyewear for field hockey. Under the new rule, players are no longer required to wear protective eyewear.

The old rule, established in 2011, stated “players shall wear eye protection that met the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard for field hockey at the time of manufacture.” However, due to “longstanding concerns regarding the wearing of goggles in high school field hockey,” the NFHS board of directors’ approved the new rule that states goggles “may be worn” by all players.

One of the concerns cited by the NFHS included the fact that the ASTM F2713 standard is not protective against a direct ball to the eye in testing and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) will not certify “any facial/eye protection unless it is integrated into a helmet.” The lack of significant research on whether goggles reduced the number of eye injuries, “particularly those of a catastrophic nature,” was also cited as a reason for easing the rule.

Additionally, concerns were raised regarding the lack of availability of ASTM-certified goggles for all field hockey players, in particular for players with corrective lenses.

According to Dale Pfriem, chairman of the ASTM committee charged with developing standards for protective eyewear for sports, the stated NFHS reasoning is lacking in both scientific and medical rational and puts high school players at risk. Pfriem, who also works with NOCSAE standards, states that the ASTM F2713 Field Hockey Eye Protection Standard was developed to mitigate both direct and indirect impacts to the eye and adnexa.

Pfriem further points out the lack of research behind this new rule. A 2015 study, Eye Protection and Risk of Eye Injuries in High School Field Hockey, found that mandated use of ASTM-compliant protective eyewear was “associated with a reduced incidence of eye/orbital injuries and fewer severe eye/orbital and head/face injuries among female high school field hockey players.” The reduction was substantial and according to the study, “a national [mandate for protective eyewear] is associated with a >3-fold reduced risk of’ those injuries.”

The American Optometric Association (AOA) has also voiced concerns about the Federation’s rule change. To read the AOA’s statement, click here.

“The position that protective goggles do not to reduce the number of eye injuries, particularly those of a catastrophic nature, is inaccurate. Eye protection is effective in preventing and reducing ocular injuries among athletes participating in high-risk sports. The ball—and the stick used by players—are just the right size to fit in the orbit and can do a lot of damage to an eyeball,” said Dr. Karl Citek, O.D., Ph.D., Pacific University College of Optometry Professor and AOA representative on the American National Standards Institute’s Accredited Standards Committee for Ophthalmic Optics.

The Vision Council, along with the AOA, highly recommends parents rely on protective eyewear to protect their children and discourage them from participating in the sport without wearing ASTM F2713 validated eyewear.

The Vision Council encourages members and nonmembers to voice their opinions on this matter to their state high schools, local sports teams and the NFHS.


Michael Vitale signature
Michael C. Vitale, ABOM
Vice President, Membership & Technical Affairs



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