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Will the new field hockey rules lead to more injuries?
  1. Mark A Tully
  1. Department of General Practice, Dunluce Health Centre, 1 Dunluce Avenue, Belfast BT9 7HR, Northern Ireland; m.tully{at}

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    On 1 January 2003, the International Hockey Federation introduced a mandatory experimental amendment to the rules pertaining to the taking of short corners. The new rule now reads “Penalty corner: no shot at goal shall be made until the ball has travelled outside the circle”.1 This change means it will no longer be necessary for attackers to stop the ball before taking a shot at goal as was previously the case. The reason given for introducing the rule was to “simplify the game without altering the overall nature of something which is unique to hockey”.1

    Short corners present a good opportunity to score a goal and are practised routinely in training. The new ruling was introduced on 1 March 2003 by the Ulster Branch of the Irish Hockey Association in whose leagues I play. I have now played three games under the new ruling, and the danger of this rule has been brought sharply into focus. In two of the three games, players required hospital attention because of knee and ankle injuries as a result of defending a short corner. It is normal practice that the defenders advance from the goal line to prevent the attacking team shooting, once the ball has been hit. The twin effect of running towards the striker and the decreased time required to take a shot, as a result of the attacking team not being required to stop the ball, leaves defenders with very little reaction time to avoid been struck by an incorrectly hit ball which may rise off the ground. In lower leagues, hitting technique is often less well developed and it is common for the ball to be lifted during a shot.

    Concern has been expressed at the number of facial injuries in hockey,2 and it is my belief that the rate of injuries (both facial and other) will increase as a result of this new rule, some of which may be severe.