Eye Protection for NHL Players

NHL players who wore visors had fewer eye injuries than players who did not

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) With hockey pucks flying at top speeds, hockey players can experience injuries to the eye in, well...the blink of an eye! However, there may be a way for players to reduce their risk for eye injuries.

A review of visor use in the National Hockey League (NHL) recently found that as visor use increased, the number of eye injuries decreased.

The authors of this study noted, however, that hockey players who did not wear visors tended to be more aggressive players, which could explain why they had more eye injuries.

"Wear a helmet with a visor when playing hockey."

This study was led by Jonathan A. Micielli, MD, from the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences at the University of Toronto in Canada. The research team examined the effect of visors (a protective structure for the eyes) on eye injuries in the National Hockey League (NHL) from the 2002-2003 to 2012-2013 NHL seasons.

Dr. Micielli and colleagues analyzed data from The Sports Network and the Hockey News annual visor survey. The study included 8,741 hockey players who played in at least one NHL game during the study period.

Over the course of the study, the researchers identified 149 eye and orbital (eye socket) injuries.

They found that of the 49 players who had an eye injury because they were hit by a puck, about 88 percent were not wearing a visor. About 84 percent of the players who had an eye injury after being struck by a hockey stick were not wearing a visor.

The researchers found a significant relationship between eye injuries and visor use. Specifically, they found that the number of eye injuries decreased as visor use increased.

The researchers also compared players who wore visors to players who did not wear visors.

They found that players who did not wear visors tended to have a more aggressive style of playing. In particular, the more aggressive players were found to have more puck hits, more fights and more penalty minutes — a set number of minutes when players are not allowed to play for breaking a rule (e.g., elbowing an opponent, head-butting an opponent or hitting an opponent with the hockey stick). They noted that this aggressive style of playing could also explain why there were more eye injuries among players who did not wear visors.

As stated by the authors of this study, eye injuries can pose a serious threat to professional hockey players and can result in injuries that end their careers. Starting in 2013-14, the NHL will make visors mandatory for all players who have started fewer than 25 NHL games.

This study was presented on November 16 at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting.

The researchers reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
November 15, 2013
Last Updated:
November 16, 2013