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Question Number: 31534

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 5/15/2017

RE: Adult

Mitch of Ottawa, ONTARIO Canada asks...

At the beginning of some matches I have to engage with players who wear non-sports glasses, uncovered knee braces, etc...

It always requires a disproportionate amount of time to deal with these matters and there are always arguments with the occasional non-compliance.

What do you suggest here?



Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mitch
Not much can be done other than saying that it is not negotiable and that the matter has to be dealt with otherwise the player does not get to play.
Over the years I have had plenty of *debate* with coaches, players about jewellery, glasses etc. Many times we try to be helpful by using as you call it a disproportionate amount of time to explain the situation. What never happens though for me is non compliance. The player either fixes it or he does not play.
I just say that I am sorry I do not make the rules I just enforce them and that safety is paramount.
A player in this part of the world lost his finger at a training ground incident recently through his ring getting caught in a fence. Imagine dealing with the finger loss after arguing with the player that he could not play because of the jewellery law and then allowing it!
So my suggestion is make the decision and then stick with it. Walk away when the call is made.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Mitch,
My advise do not go looking for trouble! Know what you will or will not tolerate and stick to it! I am likely more lenient then some but I take exception to those that think their idea of safety is superior.
Composite materials make glasses FAR safer then those of old whether or not they are flat cone shapes. What exactly do you mean non sport glasses? How many people in the world have access to the wrap around googles never mind if they can afford them?
With regards to safety glasses most lens are pretty durable as are the frames to some extent blind soccer players are worse off than those that see, so too for the safety of those around them. If the glasses are functional eyewear they generally are safe to wear new materials nowadays are pretty effective changes from iron rimmed wire glasses and plastic frames of yesteryears which were rather flimsy and unsafe. Although best that a strap is on them simply so they do not fall off and get stepped on more than a safety concern but as adults they are big enough to look after themselves as long as the glasses are not a collection of broken pieces taped together with barbwire I tend think the eye glass thing is not a big concern unless of course the league has a mandated set of requirements of ONLY specially manufactured sports lens . MY own glasses could be run over by a truck and the frame or glass would not break, I can literally twist the frames into a pretzel. Extra special sports glasses are certainly BETTER but also expensive but it is foolish in my opinion to deny playing time because regular frames are very well made and the risk is negligible compared to trying to play without adequate eyewear. I have worn glasses my entire life playing sports including hockey and lacrosse and soccer. Yes I have seen a few head ball contacts but not to the extent that the safety issue was overwhelmingly in favour of not permitting players to play unless the glasses were of such poor design or quality
How serious is the safety issue? Most braces are reasonably safe as long as they manufactured to specifications, are securely fastened and in proper working order. Most people with braces do not recklessly charge in with braces at the front impact point of a challenge. How willing are the participants to accept facing such a brace? If a league will not set out a definitive yes or no then referee discretion is the catchall. I find the only player who get hurt is the one wearing the brace and likely screws up his knee , ankle or whatever body part that was already in sad shape.
A player who has to wear a brace to play likely should not be playing for his safety at the very least but in the drive to stay active we try to find ways to include those who do really want to play. Braces are permitted but then again if the league or ROC demands certain protocols to be followed , doctors note, foam covered or soft covered, casts or perhaps no casts or no hard casts a referee has to try and do the best he can to ensure compliance and say hey rules are rules and I did not make up these ones! You look at it, if it is not satisfactory point out the restriction in the ROC or LOTG and just get away from the source

If it is simply a referee decision as to your opinion you might tell a play you will allow something but if you see it misused or to intimidate an opponent you could caution or remove him from the match. I had a player in a high school tournament beg to be allowed play with a cast on his arm. I told the opposing coach that I would permit the player to play but I warned the player if the cast was used in any unsafe manner to strike or push at a player or swing the arm about recklessly he could either be cautioned and or sent off whether he hit a player or not. He wrapped it in bubble wrap which increase the size of his arm and it caused him to receive a deliberate handling offence>
In over 40 years I have never once had an issue with glasses or braces or casts when I permitted players to play because they did not use them in an unsafe manner yet I saw plenty of broken legs, knee injuries and foot injuries from the studs up tackles of supposedly legal equipment, so safety and what is dangerous is a highly subjective outlook in my humble opinion.

ONLY jewelry, the bloody rings & earrings and hair doodads are items that really have no place in the game because they are NOT necessary t0 play! I have ignored most necklaces or religious icons if they were under shirts tapped to chest or a short chain so no fingers can get under. I had young lady with beaded hair that I had refused to allow her to play because her hair was 2 feet or longer & when she whipped her head they were faintly intimidating to go up for a headed ball if her hair lashed across your face. I found her a toque to put over her head and told her as long as I did not see those beads flying about she could play. Getting kids to play is paramount but not at the expense of their or others' safety Willing adults too deserve a shot but again the referee must define the limits. Trying to be nice guy can get you into trouble but then turning a blind eye can also keep you out of unnecessary trouble. It mays seem I am at odds with my colleagues but I assure you I consider the safety of the players as well as anyone! Cheers

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Mitch,
As regards non-sports glasses, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with my esteemed colleague Referee Dawson. I have seen some nasty injuries caused by 'regular' (non-safety) glasses which have left players with blood streaming down their faces after having the ball kicked at them and striking them full on in the face (only in games that I was not refereeing, I hasten to add). In fact I myself, when I was a schoolkid suffered exactly this kind of injury and I still have the scars on the bridge of my nose and eyebrow region, to prove it. I should perhaps mention that in all cases (including my own) the injuries were caused by the frame of the glasses and especially the nose 'pads' being driven into the flesh by the force of the impact.

Partly because of this personal experience I suppose, I have always had a 'thing' about not allowing players to take part in a game wearing non-safe eyewear.

On braces, I have always followed the Law to the letter and adopted the attitude that if they could in any way pose a danger to anyone, including the player themselves, then once again I would not allow a player wearing such a brace to participate in a match.

While I have never refereed a game under NFHS rules, I think their guidelines on such items are quite sensible. They state (in part) that a player may not wear:

''- hard and unyielding items (guards, casts, braces, etc.) on the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm or shoulder unless covered, and must be padded with a closed-cell, slow-recovery foam padding no less than 1/2-inch thick.

- knee braces which are altered from the manufacturer's original design/production. Knee braces that are unaltered are legal and do not require any additional padding''

I am in total agreement with ref McHugh that safety is paramount and also that after explaining the issue, you just need to insist, calmly but firmly, that the player either fixes the unsafe equipment, removes it or does not play.

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