GB flag iconENCN flag iconZH

Webinars and Online Resources

Personal protective equipment for field hockey

How the effectiveness of PPE for field hockey should be assessed.

Image © Afby71 |

Field hockey is the oldest known form of hockey, and worldwide is currently the second most-played team sport after soccer. As a contact sport, injuries are not uncommon. While most of these are minor and superficial, more serious injuries can and do occasionally occur. Sprains of joints such as ankles or knees and muscle strains are probably some of the most common field hockey injuries. However, contact with a hockey stick or the ball can fracture bones and, if a stick or the ball hits someone in the face, the impact can break teeth, injure eyes or lead to concussion.

As with all physical sports, the chances of injury can never be completely eliminated, but strict adherence to the rules of the game and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) will always help to mitigate any risks.

Typical PPE used by hockey goalkeepers includes a helmet with a full face guard, mouth guard, throat and chest protector. A goalkeeper also wears hand protectors, leg guards and kickers (shoe covers). Outfield players typically wear a mouthguard, gloves and shin guards.

In Europe, any product designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more hazards must meet the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation. As such, these protective products must fully comply with the requirements specified in the PPE Regulation if they are to be sold in Europe. Consequently, field hockey players’ PPE needs to be CE marked under the PPE Regulation, following an EC type-examination process by a Notified Body such as SATRA.

As the regulation is a general piece of legislation, it includes health and safety requirements which need to be taken into account for all types of PPE, but does not describe or detail how particular types of product need to be tested. To support the regulation, the European Union Commission has mandated the development of various product safety standards via the European Standards agency Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN). CEN has convened a technical committee (referenced CEN/TC 162/WG11) in order to develop a series of harmonised European standards for the testing and certification of protective equipment for use while playing sports.

Figure 1: Impact testing of a sample product

European standards describe in detail how a particular type of product should be tested and what performance is required to achieve a satisfactory pass. The tests developed for the various standards are designed to assess the products against the requirements of the PPE Regulation for the risks of the particular activity for which the product is intended to be used. The European Commission reviews these standards. If they are suitable, they become officially ‘harmonised’ throughout Europe, and have a ‘presumption of conformity’ for the parts of the regulation detailed in Annex ZA of each standard. The publication of the standard is also mentioned in the official journal of the EU. Hence, when starting the CE marking process, it is necessary to review Annex ZA of any harmonised standard to be used to ensure that all relevant clauses of the regulation will be addressed.

The standard that supports the PPE Regulation by detailing test procedures relevant to field hockey PPE is EN 13546:2002+A1:2007 – ‘Protective clothing. Hand, arm, chest, abdomen, leg, foot and genital protectors for field hockey goalkeepers and shin protectors for field players. Requirements and test methods’. The exact details of the testing varies for each product type, but the general principles remain the same. Testing in general covers the following areas:

Innocuousness details a subjective assessment for any parts of the product (such as sharp edges) that may cause injury. It also includes reference to chemical test procedures for measuring the quantity of any harmful substances in the product’s raw materials, as well as a manufacturer’s declaration.

Ergonomics. This involves a small-scale practical wear trial which involves the wearer carrying out a range of movements typical of normal use, and reporting any restrictions or discomfort caused by the protective equipment. The aim of the testing is to assess any ergonomic penalties, such as limitations to free movement associated with the wearing of the PPE.

Sizing and protective coverage area or 'zone of protection' is particularly important for products providing impact protection, and the minimum dimensions of the protective coverage area are specified. These are dependent on the size of the intended wearers with the area checked against either a standard template or key measurements made by standard metrological procedures.

Restraint. It is important that protectors remain in place during foreseeable use. This is normally achieved by a system of adjustable straps. The effectiveness of the restraint system is assessed by applying specified forces to the protector and measuring any resulting displacement.

Impact performance. Finally, the protectors are tested on an impact machine (see figure 1) to ensure that they sufficiently reduce forces transmitted to the parts of the wearer’s body to be protected. The machine has a guided falling mass striker that can be dropped from a height necessary to generate the impact energy specified by the particular test. The protector under test is mounted over an instrumented anvil that is designed to approximate the relevant part of the wearer’s body. For several of the products covered by the standard, the surface area is divided into a number of test zones, each having differing requirements in terms of impact performance. In addition, the standard allows for five different performance levels referenced 1 to 5, with level 5 representing the highest performance. Level 1 products are intended for use by children in games under modified rules (mini hockey). At the other end of the scale, level 5 products are intended to be used by highly physically trained adults who hit balls at over 120 km/hr (75 mph).

How can we help?


Please email for more information on the testing of field hockey PPE.