Our coverage this year on Sam Ward’s injury – despite it being an accident – provoked an overwhelming response to safety within the game, both at elite and grass roots level. This is only a small selection from our post bag in recent months.
Change PCs to 5 v 4
WHAT is most exasperating are some of the rules. They say that the first hit at the penalty corner must strike the backboards – even if, after the ball is passed around, the attacker hits into an open goal. Yet, the rules permit a full-blooded rising hit or a powerful flick at goal in open play that could cause serious injury (or worse), like the one Sam sustained. The penalty corner remains a vexation. It’s dangerous beyond doubt besides being a source of confusion and ambiguity to the general public. I have long pleaded for experimentation of a 5 v 4 power play in favour of the attackers that starts like the long corner (the 23m restart). The only difference here being all other players must be positioned in the other half of the pitch at the whistle to signal the restart. Worth a try? I think so. Light weight masks for outfield players would be worth developing and enhanced protection for the “first player out” in the penalty corner defence is warranted.
PC shots should be height restricted
I HAVE been suggesting a change in the short corner rules for years. As an umpire with 40 years experience of umpiring in the East Premier League I have seen many incidents of near misses and fortunately not so many nasty injuries, nearly all of them during short corners. In my own playing time, I had to adapt from firing in shots at head height at shorts when they brought in the 18″ backboard. After a while the drag flick was developed and the best proponents of this were sending the ball in at head height just as fast as I had done by a full-blooded hit. No change in the danger then. I have suggested to many people that ALL shots at short corners should be restricted in height and have to be hitting the backboard. I would also outlaw the reverse stick shot at shorts as I have witnessed the stick follow through from these shots almost decapitating defenders going in for the tackle. The wearing of protective headgear is currently not allowed. This should change and outfield players should be allowed the choice of wearing head protection.
BAN reverse stick shooting. Too many players have no idea where they are hitting the ball. Anti-skill! Just big, horrible swings. The circle has become a diving-for-cover-zone too often. Take that away and players need to develop skills to create opportunities rather than just swinging, regardless of who’s in their way. Shots not being placed, just swing without regard for others. Might hit target, often not. You see it all the time.
I THINK it’s essential that we increase the safety of the game for everyone. I’d personally like to see reverse stick shots stopped at a younger age until they are more aware of the dangers and also the use of head protection through the game.
Face mask for outfield players?
I’M A 63-year-old still playing Grand Masters and my club team. I got a major blow to the top of the head whilst wearing a mask at a PC. I ended up in A&E for four hours, four stitches and concussion. My wife said ‘enough’ but I still love playing. After reading about Sam, I think we should have the option of wearing an on-field mask, similar to in-goal masks but without the padding.
A FULL survey of injuries at clubs would help get a better picture of the extent of the dangers in hockey. I had a ball in the right eye and have impaired vision now. I wear safety glasses now.
Our club has had several head injuries.
Head injuries go unnoticed
RECORDING hospitalised injuries will not necessarily include all head injuries, or indeed all significant injuries. I would think a lot of head injuries that occur won’t be known to the neutral umpire if they went to hospital. How many times do injured players avoid hospital? I know I did.
THE high profile nature of Sam Ward’s injury may actually save a life or two. I’ve seen 11 and 12-year-old kids standing on the post trying to deflect at head height, full blown strikes from top circle in development games. Sam’s injury was inevitable. Empathy is hard earned.
DO YOU HAVE A CONCERN ON SAFETY AS A PLAYER OR CLUB? GET IN TOUCH WITH US AT NEWSDESK@THEHOCKEYPAPER.CO.UK