Safety standards set to be released in 2015 for women's lacrosse helmets
While there is no current or expected requirement for helmets in girl's lacrosse, soft helmets are allowed and being tested for safety standards that are expected to be adopted by US Lacrosse, said Melissa Coyne, Director of Games Administration for US Lacrosse.
The testing is nearly complete and the helmet safety standards should be ready in 2015. In the meantime, US Lacrosse is directing parents to helmets like those used in rugby and martial arts. The helmets must be soft and not have anything that sticks out that could potentially harm another player.
"Women's lacrosse, like soccer and field hockey, has a soft headgear allowance in their rules that would be used if you had stiches to cover or a bruise,” Coyne said. “As awareness about head injuries have increased in all sports some people had started to look to that allowance as something they could use to try to help with head injuries but those things are not designed for that. Right now there is no standard it's just that you can use soft headgear and frankly what's out there now can be worse than using your bare head.'
The lab testing used an average girl's swing speed for a possible recommendation of an 80 g-force limit, she said.
"They had girls take a stick and swing it at a bare head form as hard as they could where some of them were breaking sticks,” Coyne said. “Now we don't see that in a game but we wanted to plan for a worst case scenario. We determined the average swing speed of a girl from ages 8 to 18. Any headgear you wear may be required to be able to mitigate a force of up to 80g’s.
"We won't change our rules,” Coyne said. “We won't make it mandatory, but the soft headgear if used must meet the new scientific standard once approved.
"That's what has been missing,” Coyne said. “What's happening is we see these kids come with a product saying we want some protection for their heads that actually does something. We've done the studies, we're writing the standards and hopefully at the end of that we'll be able say at least if you're going to wear something it can do this (protect the head)."
Could helmets make the game more aggressive?
Another concern is that the addition of helmets in the girl's game would change it to make it more aggressive.
"That's a major consideration,” Coyne said. “I think we have the evidence in the men's game. If you watch the men's game it's pretty much football with sticks. I don't know that we need any more evidence than to watch their game and say we don't want to go there."
Injury statistics from the National Federation of High School Sports nationwide puts head injuries in girls lacrosse, behind soccer, basketball, track and field and rugby.
"We're way down on the list,'' she said.
Brooke de Lench is founder and Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute and is a lecturer on a wide range of youth sport parenting topics. She was the creator, director and producer of the PBS concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer."
"I am of the belief that girls will feel they are fully protected with helmets and will tend to become more aggressive,” de Lench said. “With certain players who do become more aggressive we will see a drop in participation by many girls who would rather play a “finesse” game instead of a more physical game that it will become. I know of no sport (that has added helmets) which has a reduction in head injuries and concussions.''