Objective: To identify specific risk factors for concussion severity among ice hockey players wearing full face shields compared with half face shields (visors).
Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted during one varsity hockey season (1997-1998) with 642 male ice hockey players (median age 22 years) from 22 teams participating in the Canadian Inter-University Athletics Union. Half of the teams wore full face shields, and half wore half shields (visors) for every practice and game throughout the season. Team therapists and doctors recorded on structured forms daily injury, participation, and information on face shield use for each athlete. The main outcome measure was any traumatic brain injury requiring assessment or treatment by a team therapist or doctor, categorised by time lost from subsequent participation and compared by type of face shield worn.
Results: Players who wore half face shields missed significantly more practices and games per concussion (2.4 times) than players who wore full face shields (4.07 sessions (95% confidence interval (CI) 3.48 to 4.74) v 1.71 sessions (95% CI 1.32 to 2.18) respectively). Significantly more playing time was lost by players wearing half shields during practices and games, and did not depend on whether the athletes were forwards or defence, rookies or veterans, or whether the concussions were new or recurrent. In addition, players who wore half face shields and no mouthguards at the time of concussion missed significantly more playing time (5.57 sessions per concussion; 95% CI 4.40 to 6.95) than players who wore half shields and mouthguards (2.76 sessions per concussion; 95% CI 2.14 to 3.55). Players who wore full face shields and mouthguards at the time of concussion lost no playing time compared with 1.80 sessions lost per concussion (95% CI 1.38 to 2.34) for players wearing full face shields and no mouthguards.
Conclusions: The use of a full face shield compared with half face shield by intercollegiate ice hockey players significantly reduced the playing time lost because of concussion, suggesting that concussion severity may be reduced by the use of a full face shield.