By Ann Kitt Carpenetti, US Lacrosse Women’s Division Director
Helmets should not be mandated for field players in women’s lacrosse at this time for several reasons.
The women’s game is different than the men’s game. In terms of its history, rules, penalties for contact and equipment — women’s lacrosse is different enough that some leaders in the game have even offered that the women’s game might be better served if it was not even called lacrosse at all. Baggataway anyone? Women’s lacrosse is a safe sport.
The women’s game has been played in the U.S. without helmets since 1913 and, until six years ago, without any protective equipment (other than mouth guards). According to the NFHS Concussion Rates by Sport and Type of Exposure in the 2008-09 High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, women’s lacrosse ranks fifth for head/face injuries behind soccer, basketball, softball and field hockey — the lowest rate among all field sports reviewed and third for concussions behind soccer and basketball.
Helmets do not prevent concussions. For those who want additional protection on the field, according to the US Lacrosse rulebook, women are permitted to wear soft helmets — which may help lessen the severity of head trauma and facial lacerations. More comprehensive and conclusive research of concussion prevention in youth sports in order to make the case for additional rule changes that include more protective equipment in women’s lacrosse. Additional protective equipment does not address the unsafe playing conditions that manifest when inconsistently trained coaches and umpires are on the field incorrectly teaching and enforcing the rules of women’s lacrosse.
The problem is not simply the lack of equipment — it is also the lack of properly trained coaches and officials in our game. No helmet will change the fact that only eight states in the country require sport-specific coaching education for high school level coaches. Coaches, umpires, players and administrators all need to work together and share in the responsibility our sport requires to maintain safety. US Lacrosse offers the only lacrosse-specific standardized coaches’ education curriculum in the country, and coaches can get started today at www.uslacrosse.org.