Equipment & Technology

Sports equipment, from fields to pads and helmets, are vital for protecting and keeping athletes as safe as they can be while performing. The National Operating Committee On Standards for Athletic Equipment develops the standards for protective equipment used for a variety of sports, including football, lacrosse, hockey, baseball/softball, polo, soccer and general sports.

The National Operating Committee On Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) was formed in 1969 after a particular grueling season in 1968, when 32 football players died due to direct injuries from organized games and 4 in sandlot games. The emphasis of this new group was the reduction of injuries, and the head seemed to be the most vulnerable and preventable place to start. The NOCSAE now tests helmets, face protectors, shin guards and eye protectors. All NOCSAE standards, proposed standards and guidelines are available on their website (www.nocsae.org).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) started requiring the use of certified helmets in the 1978 season, and the National Federation of State High School Associations began requiring them for the 1980 season.

The Bike Helmet Safety Institute is the primary resource for bike helmet safety and construction. Visit their web site at www.bhsi.org.

The Snell Memorial Foundation (www.smf.org) is a non-profit group dedicated to testing and ensuring the standards of helmets for motor sports (motorcycles, racing, go-carts), horse riding, bicycling, in-line skating, skateboarding and skiing. Snell purchases and tests current certified helmets on the market to assure that they follow safety guidelines. If the helmets fail, the manufacturer must make corrections to meet Snell's standards.

The Academy of Sports Dentistry (www.sportsdentistry-asd.org) collects and disseminates information on the prevention and treatment of orofacial athletic injuries. A trauma card for the emergency treatment for athletic injuries is available through the site and available in four languages. The American Dental Association (www.ada.org) is another site for information.

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (http://aapsm.org) focuses on research and management of lower extremity sports and fitness injuries. The AAPSM site has excellent articles on how to select proper athletic shoes for each sport, the importance of good socks (socks can make a difference), and general principles in cleat selection, among others.

Artificial Turf vs. Real Grass: Artificial turfs also are a factor in athlete safety. A California study showed higher injuries on turf, but the type of injury may matter more than the numbers. Players on synthetic turfs are more prone to turf toe, muscle trauma, and turf burn. Players on natural grass fields are more prone to neural, ligament, and debris injuries.

Indoor artificial turf may be softer than outdoor natural grass, but outdoor artificial turfs lead as the hardest and offer the least protection from head injuries upon impact. Newer synthetic turfs may be softer at first, but may harden over time, putting players at risk.

Artificial turfs can quickly reach high surface temperatures in hot conditions. In one study, artificial turf reached a 200-degree surface temperature on a 98-degree day, in comparison with concrete surfaces averaging 94-degrees and grass surfaces only 78-degrees. This extra heat can contribute to heat stress injuries and impact playability.

 

Protective Eyewear

Protective Eyewear standards currently exist for racket sports, women's lacrosse, paintball and youth baseball. They have been developed through voluntary consensus by subcommittees of the American Society for Testing and Materials. The Protective Eyewear Certification Council (www.protecteyes.org) was created to assist consumers, sports organizations, eye care professionals, manufacturers, and sports officials. The PECC seal on protective eyewear assures that it has been tested and certified and will protect adequately.