Is facial protection in sports necessary?

Issues in hockey seem to ebb and flow between concussions and helmet safety and the importance of making visors mandatory for players. And when the 30 NHL general managers met on Wednesday, March 20, the visor debate once again was brought to the forefront.

Usage has certainly gone up; according to a poll conducted by The Hockey News, 69.4 per cent of NHL players are donning the visor. And in the past decade the use of the visor has gone up by more than 40 per cent. If this is the case, what’s the issue?

More and more players are wearing the visor and but THN’s poll shows that only three of the rookie-eligible players do not wear a visor. This may be due in part to a visor being mandatory in Major Junior hockey leagues, but obviously when given the choice, players do not have a problem with it when they make the jump to the big show.

Therefore, I don’t see the issue and reason to make it mandatory. It is an incredibly unfortunate thing to see a player writhing in pain on the ice, possibly bloodied after being receive a stick or puck to the face/eye area, but these are the risks players are willing to take if they do not wear a visor.

Second year Laurier student and Leafs fan, Joe Horrigan agrees.

“No, [they shouldn’t have to wear visors] they’re pros and should be able to decide for themselves,” says Horrigan.

You can wear as much protection as you want, but injuries will always occur and such devastating eye injuries that actually result in loss of vision are incredibly rare. If it’s not an eye/facial injury, it will be something else.

But Laurier extramural hockey player, Michael Bondy feels that there isn’t any reason to even take a chance.

“I really do [think visors should be mandatory]. We see guys getting hurt at the professional level [like Marc Stall and Chris Pronger] and these are permanent injuries which could have been avoided,” says Bondy.

Major League Baseball was also considering implementing some sort of facial protection for pitchers after an incident last season involving Oakland Athletics’ pitcher Brandon McCarthy. On September 5 he was hit in the head by a line drive after throwing a pitch, fracturing his skull.

Just like with a puck, a ball off of a bat is coming at a player at tremendous speeds, but in a million at-bats, that ball will not impact a pitcher, so should he be forced to wear protection?

Protection in baseball is more overlooked than hockey and football when it comes to head injuries and the sport should get the same sort of attention, but for the batters – they are the ones facing pitches upward of 100 MPH multiple times a game, which carry a more likely outcome to be struck than a pitcher does.

And this is certainly a different scenario than hockey, as all players involved in the game aren’t all performing the same event.

The merits of mandatory protection are obviously huge, but these things should be up to the players. And with so many players switching over anyway, safety is going in the right direction. The transition is being made and the positive effects of the visor are on display without having to be told what to do, there is no need to change that.

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