The NHL vs. Everyone Else (Part 3): The Eyes Have It
March 28, 2011 5 Comments
When a puck or a stick meets an eye, bad things happen (see: Malhotra, Manny; Berard, Brian). The current debate is whether visors should be made mandatory in the NHL, and whether they actually do anything. The fact of the matter is that you can find research on almost any subject to support either side of an argument. Ready? Go:
“Oh, so visors are dangerous!”
No, not necessarily. This was a study done in the ECHL that compared injuries in players with visors to players with no facial protection. The study found that lacerations to the forehead and cheek were more severe in players with visors, but contusions due to collisions were more severe with no facial protection. The researchers concluded that since high sticking caused the most facial injuries, and sticks could slip under a visor, that visors may not provide adequate protection. Here’s the problem: Were the visors properly fitted? How many players do you see with a loose chin strap and their helmet tilted back? A visor only works if it is properly worn – low enough that it covers the eyes and the lower edge of the nose. Could something still slip under it? Yes, probably. Is it less likely? Obviously. The point is that you can’t go from “Players in visors have lacerations of greater severity” to “Visors are dangerous/not helpful”. That’s not a leap that makes sense.
Now for the other side of the argument:
“Oh, so visors keep you from getting hurt!”
This study looked at NHL injuries in 2001-02, and concluded that visor use resulted in decreased eye and non-concussion head injuries, but did not affect concussion rates (I think I’ll file that last point under “Duh, really?”).
Here’s another. This study looked at injuries in elite amateur hockey players and compared injuries in players with full facial protection, visors, and no facial protection. Since full facial protection isn’t something the NHL will be seeing any time soon (other than what you’ll see occasionally on players healing certain facial injuries), I’ll just note that all injuries were reduced with full protection. The study found that overall facial injury was twice as likely with no facial protection, and eye injury was 4.7 times greater. Interestingly, the study also found that players using full and partial facial protection did not have an increase in neck injury or concussion (because I know someone was going to try to make that argument).
So there is definitely evidence that visors are protective, and one study that says players who wear them have more severe lacerations (but doesn’t reliably establish a causative link). My conclusion: Wear a visor, save an eye. Let’s face it – a laceration is something you can repair relatively easily – especially compared to a detached retina or a ruptured eyeball. Every complaint about fogging or scratching or not looking cool seems petty when the alternative is losing an eye and a career.
Also, this guy has figured out how to permanently anti-fog glass and plastic surfaces.
Next time: I’ll take a look at the variety of eye injuries hockey players can get, and explain the treatments for them. Advance warning – eye injuries are not for the squeamish.