A new study has found that football helmet faceshields can withstand a hit equivalent to a kick in the face and provide protection without disrupting players' vision.
During the study, eye specialists at Ohio State University used an air cannon to hurl baseballs at the plastic faceshields.
The impact was designed to mimic the force of a kick to the face, considered the riskiest way to sustain an eye injury in football.
The baseballs were propelled at the faceshields at velocities of up to 218 feet per second, or nearly 150 miles per hour.
The measures of optical quality showed that the curved, plastic shields do not add any corrections or distortions to players' vision.
Gregory Good, professor of clinical optometry at Ohio State and a coauthor of the study said that the faceshields' protective potential supports the argument favouring mandatory use of the shields for college-age football players and younger,
"I think this would be a good idea not only from a collegiate standpoint, but all the way down to peewee football, especially for players with good vision in only one eye," Good said.
"Players in the pros can make their own decisions, but it would be helpful to have coaches and managers on board to convince kids in high school and younger kids especially to wear faceshields.
"At that age, kids typically don't have enough experience to make a decision about safety on their own," he added.
The researchers determined that football faceshields hold up solidly to high-velocity impact, but whether that strength is maintained over the duration of one or more football seasons is open to debate and is part of continuing research.