Guards Polo Club is set to introduce a rule on polo hats for next season after one of its players has been left in a coma following a serious fall earlier this summer.

From 2015 the club will enforce warnings and fines on any players who fail to wear protective headgear. However, the specific regulations are yet to be confirmed, according to Guards’ chief executive, Neil Hobday.

“We are working to adopt the minimum standard of safety required,” Mr Hobday told H&H. “Collectively as a sport we must take it [hat safety] very seriously indeed. There does not seem to be any pushback from the playing community about it. We wanted to get the process going.”

After the accident involving Brazilian four-goal player Juracy Santos at Guards, H&H polo reporter Aurora Eastwood started a campaign for the sport’s governing body — the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) — to bring in a blanket ruling. An online petition to change the rule for the 2015 season has received hundreds of signatures.

A safety hat regulation would bring the HPA in line with other equestrian bodies. Safety hats are compulsory for all British Showjumping competitors; British Dressage, except for advanced and above; and for British Eventing, except for dressage and prize-giving at novice and above. Safety hats are already compulsory for polo in the Pony Club.

Last month all four members of the British dressage team competed in crash helmets at the World Equestrian Games.

At present, the HPA enforces the wearing of “protective headgear with the chinstrap or harness correctly fastened” but many players choose to play in “low profile”, single-strap helmets.

The HPA told H&H that the issue of safer headgear is due to be discussed and a decision taken at the stewards meeting in October.

HPA chief executive David Woodd said; “The HPA is surprised to see Guards proposing to follow its own line. The HPA is considering what action it should be taking, bearing in mind its rule will apply to all players in this country and in all countries affiliated to the HPA.

“It’s a big issue: will it also apply to grooms and those umpiring? A decision is needed but it needs to be a very clear decision that makes sense to players.”

➤ To sign the polo safety hat petition visit: http://www.change.org/p/the-hurlingham-polo-association-change-rule-3c-to-insist-upon-safe-helmets-for-the-2015-season

This news story was first published in H&H magazine on 18 September 2014