Field Hockey Ball Hardness
Ooh, that must’ve hurt. This is usually the first thought most of us have when we see a field hockey ball make contact with a player’s body. Unfortunately, being hit by the ball is part of the game, but no player wants to be hit because, let’s face it, it’s pretty hard.
A field hockey ball is made out of solid plastic and is considered very hard. A regulation size field hockey ball weighs roughly between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem like much, but if you envision the force behind the ball when a player takes a hit, then the hardness of the ball becomes compounded by the force with which it was hit. To put it in perspective, a field hockey ball weighs more than a lacrosse ball, a cricket ball, and a baseball and about the same as a pool ball.
As one of the oldest sports in history, the field hockey ball has had a long time to evolve. Some believe field hockey has been around for 4000 years (source).
From humble beginnings, the hockey ball was first crafted from rubber and bamboo and then made of cork and leather, until it finally became what we recognize today.
Most field hockey balls are made from a tough plastic, which is either filled with cork, rubber, or air (source).
Both cork and rubber cores make the hockey ball firmer and more rigid, giving the ball more strength and stability.
According to the United States Field Hockey Association, a field hockey ball must meet the following specifications (source):
- The ball must be round.
- It must have a circumference of between 8.8 – 9.2 inches (224 – 235 mm).
- It must weigh between 5.5 – 5.75 ounces (156 – 163 grams).
- The ball can be made from any material.
- The ball should be white. It may be another colour if agreed upon but must be a contrasting colour.
- The surface of the ball is hard and smooth. Indentations are allowed.
Let’s unpack a couple of the points listed above. Point four states that field hockey balls can be made out of any material. In the modern hockey game, balls are usually crafted from solid plastic. This is because it allows them to travel over AstroTurf and grass with a fair amount of ease.
The cores of these balls are sometimes still made of cork because it gives them some bounce.
Point five deals with the colour of the ball. While white is the standard colour, it is not unusual to see a range of neon-coloured hockey balls. Luminous yellow and orange are both popular. What is most important when it comes to colour is that it is highly visible and contrasts with the field.
In point six, the United States Field Hockey Association states that dimpled balls are allowed. Indentations, or dimples as they are known colloquially, have grown in popularity in recent years. This is because the indentations will enable the ball to maintain a constant speed when moving over wet surfaces.
Often, hockey balls used during training sessions are different from the balls used during official games. They are usually just hollow balls made from plastic, and they are suitable for beginners to practice their drills.
If you are interested in learning more about the long and rich history of field hockey, it is worth reading more about the origin of field hockey.
One of the most significant concerns when discussing a field hockey ball’s hardness is the injuries that players may sustain from coming into contact with the ball.
Unfortunately, most players will be familiar with the painful sensation of being hit by the ball. While these occurrences may result in minor injuries, such as bruises or scrapes, they can also be more serious. Injuries caused by a player coming into contact with either the ball or a stick are known as extrinsic injuries (source).
One of the dangers with field hockey is the velocity created during a drive or long hit. The two-handed swing, which we also see in golf, means that the ball’s speed is dramatically increased, way more so than with a push or sweep.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA, states that the rate of injury in field hockey is 6.3/1000 athletes (source).
In terms of extrinsic injuries, they account for between 60 – 80% of all injuries, and these injuries were a result of being hit by the hockey stick or ball.
Injuries caused by being hit by a field hockey ball include:
- Broken fingers
- Fractured bones (wrists, ankles)
- Swelling and inflammation
While extrinsic injuries are expected, specific measures are put in place to limit the number of instances of players being hit by the ball.
The National Hockey Federation outlines the type of gear that field hockey players are allowed to wear. Some of it offers protection to the players against extrinsic injuries. This gear includes things like hand, shin, and mouth protection.
A field hockey player may wear hand protection as long as it does not increase the size of the player’s hands.
Field hockey players are allowed to wear leg guards as well as knee guards.
Ankle, shin, and mouth protection are strongly recommended. Players are encouraged to wear mouthguards to protect their teeth should the ball hit them in the mouth.
While field hockey players don’t wear masks or helmets as they do in ice-hockey, the National Hockey Federation allows players to wear a mask if they have a legitimate medical reason. Defenders are allowed to wear a mask when facing a penalty corner or penalty stroke.
This goes for eye protection as well. Players will be allowed to wear goggles if they can prove that there are medical grounds.
In addition to the gear that players can use to protect themselves against the ball, various hockey rules aim to limit dangerous ball play.
In field hockey, players may not:
“A dangerous manner” in field hockey is when other players “run for cover” in a somewhat evasive manner.
In this case, “just cause” refers to a hit at goal. Other than this, the ball should not be intentionally lifted. Scoops and flicks are also permitted as long as the ball is not raised in a manner deemed dangerous.
Whenever the ball is in the air, it’s a potential risk for players to be struck in the face or on the head. This is why elevated balls are controlled so strictly.
When a ball is raised off the ground, all opposing players must remain 5 meters away from the falling ball. Opponents may only approach when the ball is on the ground, has been received, and is in control.
Contact with the ball and the players’ bodies is strictly forbidden. As such, they are not allowed to kick, stop, carry, or throw the ball. While this contact does occur quite frequently, it is usually unintentional. It is only seen as an offence if the team in question gains an advantage.
These are some of the protocols that the United States Field Hockey Association has put in place to prevent extrinsic injuries caused by being hit by the ball.
While these protocols are primarily on the field, Research conducted by Monash University and presented in a paper entitled, A Review of Field Hockey Injuries and Counter Measurements for Prevention offers additional solutions (source).
They came up with three countermeasures, which they categorized into “primary,” “secondary,” and “tertiary”. These measures are used to prevent and treat injuries both on and off the field.
Primary countermeasures primarily take place before the players take to the field. These countermeasures include:
- Expertise of coaches
- Pre-season fitness program
- Proper warm-ups and pre-game stretches
- Expert officiating and expertise of officials
- Prophylactic taping and, if needed, bracing
- Rules that limit dangerous play
- Creating a safe environment that includes level playing surfaces
Secondary countermeasures are applicable on the field and include protective gear as well as the following:
- Attention to players’ technique
- Strict eradication by umpire and coaches of dangerous play
- Having protective equipment, including proper footwear
Tertiary countermeasures are the measures that take place after injury. They include:
- Immediate access to medical care and first aid.
- R.I.C.E.R — Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, & Rehabilitation
- Methods preventing re-injury, such as taping and bracing.
- Return to the game only when feeling fit.
Extrinsic injuries frequently occur due to field hockey players being struck by the ball. The ball’s hardness, combined with its increased velocity when driven by a player, make it a formidable opponent.
Fortunately, various protocols and procedures have been put in place by the governing bodies, umpires, and coaches to prevent such injuries from occurring too frequently, and to limit the impact when they do occur.