A female field hockey player was left injured after a male player made an attempt at a goal and hit her in the face with a ball during a Thursday field hockey game in Massachusetts.
The female player, of the Dighton-Rehoboth team, collapsed to the ground after Sawyer Groothuis of the Swampscott team shot the ball, hitting her face.
A local news report of the game issued a glowing review of Groothuis’ performance, revealing that he scored the only two goals of the game.
According to WCVB, Swampscott Public Schools Athletic Director Kelly Wolff said Groothuis is a 4-year varsity player and co-captain on the coed team.
A letter from Dighton-Rehoboth Superintendent Bill Runey revealed that the female player “sustained significant facial and dental injuries when she was struck in the face by a shot in the third quarter versus Swampscott in an MIAA state playoff contest.”
“The shot was taken by a male member of the Swampscott girls field hockey team. This injury required hospitalization. The player, her family, teammates, and coaches remain in my prayers.”
“While I understand that the MIAA has guidelines in place for co-ed participation under section 43 of their handbook, this incident dramatically magnifies the concerns of many about player safety,” the statement continued.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athlete Association (MIAA) states in its handbook that “If a school offers a single team in a particular sport, it may not restrict eligibility based on gender unless such a restriction is necessary to ensure that the school’s gendered designation of athletic opportunities complies with Title IX.”
A previous version of the handbook, which extended through June 2023, included a legal note that states schools must comply with the state’s Equal Rights Amendment, adding that a ruling in the 1979 case Attorney General v MIAA ordered that a blanket rule banning boys from girls teams, when no boys team was present, violated the act.
“I understand that the Mass ERA legislation is voluminous; and therefore, is very difficult to modify in total. However, seeing the horror in the eyes of our players and coaches upon greeting their bus last night is evidence to me that there has to be a renewed approach by the MIAA to protect the safety of our athletes,” Runey’s letter continued.
“In years past, there were provisions in girls’ volleyball that, although boys could participate, they could not play on the front line because their ability to spike the ball created a higher level of risk. I have been told that those restrictions were deemed illegal and no longer exist. Athletics has come so far in the realm of safety, but the equipment and the training that our athletes are receiving in today’s day and age requires us to be more thoughtful about all of our rules and policies regarding safety.”
A statement from the MIAA said the organization’s “first and foremost” concern “is for the health and recovery of the injured student-athlete, as well as of the well-being of all affected student-athletes, coaches and administrators from both schools.”
The statement reiterated the need to adhere to the Equal Rights Amendment, adding that “We respect and understand the complexity and concerns that exist regarding student safety. However, student safety has not been a successful defense to excluding students of one gender from participating on teams of the opposite gender. The arguments generally fail due to the lack of correlation between injuries and mixed-gender teams.”