In 2015, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) mandated all educational institutions under its wings to provide protective headgear for their girls’ lacrosse team. It was meant to reduce the number of injuries players get during games; however, a study has shown that the preventive measure led to an even higher injury rate.
Dr. Daniel Herman, the lead author of the study, hinted that the use of protective headgear might have caused the increase of concussion and musculoskeletal injury rates in high school girls’ lacrosse. (Related: Just ONE head injury increases your risk of Parkinson’s by 56 percent.)
Three years prior and three years after the implementation of the mandate, Herman studied the data collected from girls’ lacrosse players across Florida. At the same time, the team of researchers examined similar data of members of boys’ lacrosse team during the same period of time for comparison.
It turned out, the years following the directive from FHSAA, the girls reported a significantly higher rate in terms of concussions and musculoskeletal injury as compared to the rated before they started wearing headgear. Meanwhile, no significant change was seen in the boys’ data.
Dr. Herman and his team concluded that there’s a possibility that the girls are getting more injuries due to increased aggressiveness. It appears they are more confident to play roughly since they, and their opponents, are wearing protection.
The games have changed
Former player and current lacrosse team coach, Leslie Klenk, agreed that the helmets had given the girls heightened security to play more aggressively. She added, “Because they know now that people are protected, nobody’s going to get hurt. Or they’re not going to get hurt by the stick or the errant ball to the head.”
But it’s not the same for Andy Haskell, coach for the Gardiner’s girls’ lacrosse team. He said he didn’t see any changes in the behavior of her players – ruling out the suggestion that they have become more aggressive. According to him, it just so happened that the sport is being played by well-trained humans who are also receiving better coaching.
“Girls are probably passing the ball harder through the critical scoring area than they were shooting 20 years ago,” Haskell said. “They’re better athletes, and when you have better athletes playing at a faster pace with a higher level of skill … situations happen,” Haskell explained.
Meanwhile, parents who have daughters playing lacrosse like Klenk loved the idea of putting on a helmet on her child’s head. She revealed that the most common hits in lacrosse are from sticks which don’t hurt that much. What’s more dangerous, she added, are collisions with other players, hitting the ground, and the balls flying around.
As for Haskell, although the protective headgear will not stop a possible concussion, it may reduce the risk of severe head injuries. “I just felt very strongly about the headgear and the kids’ concussions. You just want to keep kids playing, you want them to enjoy the sport, you want them to feel safe.”
Currently, only Florida has this type of mandate. Players are only provided with goggles and mouth guards for protection. The U.S. Lacrosse team has approved two types of protective headgear for girls. The first one is the Cascade LX which has an integrated eyewear. The second option is from Hummingbird which must be worn with approved eyewear.
Find out more about head injuries, concussions and how they can affect you at Brain.