Contact In Field Hockey
No matter how hard sporting authorities try to control it, the line between contact and non-contact sport can get pretty blurry. Some sports like American football and mixed martial arts are obvious contact sports. At the same time, swimming and golf are considered non-contact. It’s not always so easy to tell when it comes to sports like soccer and field hockey.
Technically, field hockey is considered a non-contact sport, but the truth is that some contact is unavoidable. You won’t play or watch field hockey without seeing some bodily contact between the players. This is why various methods are employed to ensure field hockey remains a non-contact sport.
The notion of a non-contact sport and the measures put into place to maintain it as such are worth discussing, as is whether field hockey is considered a safe sport for people to play.
In the world of sports, we use the term “non-contact” and “contact.” These terms are used to describe whether the game involves some form of bodily contact or not. Non-contact sports are defined by an actual physical separation, which results in the players not coming into contact with one another.
If you consider American football, much of the game is played with the players’ bodies, making it a contact sport. Running, swimming, and cycling are all examples of non-contact sports because the players do not need to come into contact with one another.
Field hockey, on the other hand, lies somewhere in between these two. Because field hockey is played with sticks, the players don’t need to come into contact with each other. However, this is where the misunderstandings begin. Just because field hockey isn’t a collision sport doesn’t mean there isn’t contact.
Field hockey is comparable to soccer. Both sports are technically defined as non-contact sports, and yet they lie somewhere in the middle. As in soccer, there are three types of contacts in field hockey. These are legal contact, illegal contact, and accidental contact (source).
Legal contact occurs on the field in several instances. If one player is guarding another, one or perhaps two players are chasing the ball and are running shoulder to shoulder. Legal contact is defined as contact that is necessary to play the game.
Illegal contact in a non-contact sport is when a player makes contact with another in an intentional and potentially dangerous way. Illegal contact always results in the umpire calling a foul and reprimanding the guilty team.
For field hockey, illegal contact includes tripping players and using their elbows. Illegal contact is also considered to be careless contact. That means that a player must always be aware of those around them.
The International Hockey Federation states that each player must behave responsibly at all times (source).
Accidental contact frequently occurs in field hockey. It happens when players accidentally run into one another or collide. In a sport as fast-paced as field hockey, often contact can be unavoidable, and it’s no one’s fault.
Ultimately the umpire is responsible for monitoring the level of contact on the hockey field. While there are protocols in place, each umpire will also be expected to use their own description to make decisions. In professional sport, where the games are recorded, there is more opportunity to monitor contact more carefully.
Contact in field hockey is controlled through a system of fouls and penalty cards. A team is fouled if they push, charge, trip, or intentionally injure another player in any way (source).
For more severe offences, penalty cards may be used. Penalty cards are used against individual players. There are three penalty cards in field hockey — green, yellow, and red. These cards operate based on the severity of the offence and whether the player is a repeat offender.
A green card is awarded for more minor offences and for one-time offenders. Being given a green card means the player is suspended for a period of two minutes of playing time.
A yellow card is given for a more severe infraction. It means that the player is suspended for a minimum of five minutes of playing time.
Red cards are awarded for only the most severe offences, and they mean the player is permanently suspended from the game.
Most often, penalty cards are usually only awarded for misconduct that endangers the safety of other players.
Since field hockey does involve a certain amount of contact, it’s essential to consider the common injuries associated with the sport and how these are related to contact between players.
Any sport has a risk of injury; however, the more contact the players have, the greater the risks. The following injuries are considered the most frequently occurring in field hockey, directly related to contact.
Due to how field hockey players hold their sticks, there are often both hand and wrist injuries. These injuries result from direct contact with another player’s stick or with the ball. Fractured fingers are especially prevalent for similar reasons (source).
Again, contact with another player’s stick or with the ball can cause facial injuries. Most facial injuries in field hockey are superficial, like shallow cuts and bruises. More significant injuries have been recorded, but the instances are not as common.
Concussions are responsible for seven percent of all field hockey injuries. They usually result from being hit in the head with the ball or another player’s stick. They can also occur if a player is pushed or tripped, falling to the ground.
Not all injuries in hockey are due to contact with other players or the ball. Often injuries such as a twisted ankle or pulled hamstring are just a casualty of the game (source).
As a semi-contact sport, you may now wonder if field hockey is a safe sport to play. The answer to this is two-sided and is also up for debate.
Extensive research has been done into contact and non-contact sports. This is because people, especially parents, are concerned about the effects of contact sports on both the short-term and the long-term health of their children.
Stanford Children’s Health reported that roughly 30 million children and teenagers participate in organized sports every year in the United States. Of these 30 million, there are more than 3.5 million injuries recorded annually (source).
While most of these injuries are minor, there is some concern about the long-term damage resulting from contact sports — specifically collision sports like football — and how it affects the brain’s functions.
Some of this research has shown that repeated contact, resulting in blows to the head known as micro concussions, for example, results in brain changes and changes in eye movements (source).
A study by the University of Indiana compared cross country runners with football players and found a significant difference in their brain activity. While the matter is still widely debated, most contact sports are not recommended for anyone younger than 14 (source).
While field hockey is not considered a collision sport and the risk of head injury is less than eight percent, it’s still always vital to be aware of sports’ possible injuries. Field hockey is by no means the most dangerous sport one can play, but it does have some potential dangers and risks.
Despite this, field hockey is a popular sport in a lot of countries across the world.
Where there is a sport played, there will inevitably be injuries. Yet, while some injuries are unavoidable, there are things that we can do to help minimize them.
Players should be made aware of and regularly reminded about acceptable levels of contact. They should also be held accountable for any misconduct in terms of illegal contact. As a non-contact sport, umpires overseeing a game should strictly enforce the rules which keep other players safe.
The proper gear should be worn, which will help minimize potential injuries. This includes mouth guards and shin guards as well as shoes with sufficient grip to prevent slipping. Protective masks should also be worn when facing a penalty corner, and many players wear goggles to protect their eyes and gloves to protect their fingers.
Players should also be educated on the best ways to avoid contact while still being able to play the game and keep safe. If these steps are put into practice, it may help push field hockey back towards being a totally non-contact sport.
While field hockey is not defined as a contact sport, there will always be inevitable contact, whether intentional or by accident. As contact between players can result in injuries, it’s essential to monitor the game and have protocols in place to minimize the amount of contact in the non-contact sport.
As a hockey player, it’s always important to be mindful of the amount of contact you have and avoid contact unless absolutely necessary. By doing this, you can prevent injuries to yourself and other players.