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Girls' Lacrosse Players Should Be Wearing Helmets

Whether kids want the protection or not, adults should insist on it.

I think it would be fairly accurate to assume that most of us over the age of 40 did not wear cycling helmets as kids. And for that matter, how many of you remember riding in the back of a station wagon or even the backseat of a car without a seatbelt?

Today most of us are fanatical in making both issues as natural an act for our children (and hopefully ourselves) as tying their $100 sneakers.

We evolve. Research leads to new technology. Someone figures out that a fiberglass mask will stop a hockey puck from smashing facial bones. Or that a seatbelt will stop us from being launched through the windshield of a car.

When Jacque Plante introduced the goalie mask into an NHL game for the first time more than 50 years ago, many questioned his dedication and bravery. Helmets were actually the last of the football pads to be accepted in 1888 and weren’t made mandatory in college until 1939 and then pro football in 1943.

Another example of this type of stubborn anti-protection behavior has occurred during the Tour de France and other professional cycling races over the years. I’m always baffled by the old school mentality of the younger riders who’ve protested such a commonsense rule as wearing a helmet while descending the French Alps at 50-plus mph.

So I guess the evolution of common sense can sometimes be rather slow when it comes to protecting athletes or athletes wanting to be protected. It’s akin to young adults not wearing seatbelts — heck, any adult for that matter.

I don’t understand any of it. Call me weak. Call me over-cautious. Call me whatever you want. If it reduces the odds of making an ambulance call on my behalf, I’ll take the protection.

This leads me to my research regarding girls' lacrosse injuries. I’ve been watching games over the past couple of weeks and talking to players (two of whom broke noses after being hit with the ball) as well as parents. And while I’ll admit that my exposure to the game is limited, it looked pretty obvious to me that there is a lot of incidental contact going on out there.

I understand that it’s a non-contact sport (whatever that means) but these aren’t the same girls as 20 or 30 years ago. Have you seen them lately? They are bigger, faster, and stronger. Many of them wouldn’t think twice if you asked them to take a shift on the field among the boys regardless of the major differences in the game itself. They are that driven. They are that competitive and fearless.

Girls' lacrosse is no joke!

Okay, so even if U.S. Lacrosse doesn’t have enough proof that helmets would lessen the occurrences of concussions, do they think they would protect the wearers from broken noses, gashes to the forehead, or split lips? How about using gloves to protect hands and fingers? Some of those body parts come in handy during school.

I don’t have the space here to comment on their reasoning for not insisting on more protection. But I do question much of the logic they present. And we can certainly discuss this further in the comments section below.

A recent study performed by George Mason University indicates that more research needs to be done before coming to any real conclusions. Conclusions before concussions, I guess.

And finally, an article from the Huffington Post where some girls are angered at the thought of being forced to wear helmets.

Quite frankly I don’t care what the kids (or young adults) want or don’t want to do when it comes to the issue of protecting themselves. Leave that to the adults who don’t want to see them seriously injured.

Am I being overly protective of children that aren’t even mine? I’d love to hear from players as well as parents and coaches on this subject.

Now over to the boys' side of the field: Can we please make it mandatory that the goalies wear leg protection? I’m told by some that it’s a matter of toughness — or proving their toughness. Again, this should not be left up to a kid’s discretion. Why in the world would you want to leave their young knees exposed to a hard rubber ball being launched toward them? Make it a rule across the board.

And one last thing I noticed at a multi-use field: the lacrosse lines were painted in black — black on grass? The opposing team especially found it difficult not to focus on the white or yellow lines that were several yards outside of the black ones.

There have got to be other color choices out there (pink or red maybe?). Hey, how about more white — and before the game the players are made aware of which lines are being used. If I’m missing something here, please enlighten me.

So there you have it. Straight from my desk at an undisclosed location wearing my helmet, gloves, and leg protection just in case a girls' LAX team or originator of the black lines finds me.

Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 02:00 AM
If it lessens the chance of a concussion - then yes. We are talking about the brain. If little heads are taking that much of a pounding - do we stand around and watch? Seriously?
Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 02:02 AM
It will happen someday and we'll all wonder what the heck took so long. Well at least those of us that value safety over tradition.
Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 02:04 AM
What about the black lines? I know I'm not the only one who has wondered about them.
Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 02:07 AM
FROM CARL VIA EMAIL: Have to say I disagree about helmets on girls. I don't have any evidence on hand to back it up, so I'd be willing to hear the other side, but it's been my experience that additional padding encourages additional risk and contact. The existing rules should already prevent contact from a stick or player, and alertness is usually sufficient to avoid shots and passes to the head. As for leg padding for men's goalies, I don't think it's a question of toughness so much as it is about keeping the goalie in the flow of the game. The goalie's mobility is a big factor in defending shots and clearing the ball downfield, and it'd be a shame to see that removed in favor of a more static presence in the net. I haven't been able to find any evidence that the goalies are particularly susceptible to injury in a quick search, although if I saw some statistics that proved otherwise I would certainly reconsider. 
Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 02:19 AM
FROM VICKI VIA EMAIL: Ron, I agree! My daughter is 16 and has been playing lacrosse since age 8. During practice before the season started, she got hit in the head very hard with a lacrosse ball thrown by a new player. So far it's been 4 weeks with a concussion, many doctor visits, missed school, homework, missed season of lacrosse, the list goes on and on. My 2 boys play lacrosse and wear helmets. I know the game is different for girls and boys but not that much different in my opinion. I guess the change needs to start at the college level from what I hear - it's time. Thanks for writing the article and drawing attention to something much needed.
Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Thomas - I'll let you decide about wearing a helmet in your car.
Ron Goralski April 28, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Carl - I've been speaking with tons of parents (about 20 from Glastonbury this morning) and 100% of them where in favor of helmets for the girls. It was almost as if they finally had a chance to get it out in the open. Good points regarding goalies. But I've played street hockey and have run around with the lightweight guards and they aren't much of a hinderance. I'm also not sold on the accuracy of the numbers in many of these reports released.
Michael Cenci April 29, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I have played men's lacrosse and coached the women's game for several years. Although both use a stick, ball and have two goals, that is where the similarities end. The rules of the girl's game are designed with safety as the top priority. Yes, there is incidental contact in the girl's game. However, I disagree with introducing helmets as a solution for safety. Helmets would provide a false sense of security and if mandated, I would expect more injuries, aggressive play and less concern about discipline and control. There are concussions in soccer (ball/falls), basketball (elbows/falls) and other girls' sports. Rules have recently been modified to put even more emphasis on safety and stronger penalties for infractions. In addition, there has been a lot of resources put into educating coaches, players and parents on the rules and safety of the game. This, in my opinion, is the long-term solution to keeping the game safe, not helmets.
Ron Goralski April 29, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Here's a new study on preventable injuries... http://www.safekids.org/our-work/news-press/press-releases/new-research-reveals-one.html
P Hep May 01, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Mr daughter is in her fifth year of playing "Girls Youth Lacrosse" and in all of these years, I've not seen any real head or body accidents from balls, whacks with sticks (checking or hitting with one's stick is not allowed) and the goalies do wear full helmets, body and shin pads. The most injuries I've seen have been from falls due to poor field maintenance by the towns rec departments. The girls are allowed to wear a soft, golf like type of glove but most choose not to. Girls' LAX is more of a game of finesse vs the full on contact sport that boys lax is. My son is in his 4th yr of playing and he's in full body armour from head to toe (this year he's a goalie (in higher up levels like college, they take the goalie shin pads away, who knows why). The girls work more on their passing game, their cradling skills and shooting aims. The boys work on plowing through like football or hockey players to get the ball to the goal and to score. I see many more injuries on the boys teams more frequently. They do get to check (hit each other on their bodies with their sticks to get them down or knock the ball out. So, should the girls wear helmets? I'm not sure. Better safe than sorry? maybe. Try and catch both men's and women's college lacrosse games on cable tv on the weekends. You'll see how the game for both sexes is meant to be played.
Ron Goralski May 01, 2012 at 02:27 PM
VIA EMAIL: Hello: I have read your article and several others that are for & against implementing head protection for girls' lacrosse. My daughter just had her 1st concussion in lacrosse on Thursday April 26th. One player on the opposing team injured 2 players with concussions. I am very much in favor of head protection..be it any sport or activity that injury to the head could occur. Interesting spot on tornadoes even on tv the other night..mother put bike helmet on child and child is alive due to that last minute protection. Who cares about a bed hair..don't be stupid..protect your brain!!
Ron Goralski May 01, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I do understand the differences in the games. But what I'm reading here in many of these responses as well as talking with parents at games is that girls are indeed getting concussions. I think at some point the “establishment” has to reach out to the parents on the sidelines for their views and suggestions. All the studies in the world won’t answer why I’m able to find so many girls in this area that have received head injuries. And I’ve only been researching this for a few weeks. It just makes me wonder…
Ron Goralski May 01, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I'm sensing that the old school values aren't being taught or officiated quite as they once were at the lower levels. I've run into way too many parents with little girls that have been injured. So I believe while looking at this issue, we have to forget about how the game is supposed to be taught, played, and officiated and focus more on the realities of the sport TODAY. HEAR ME: I'm not critiquing those of you involved in these areas - I'm simply suggesting that for whatever reasons, the game is NOT the same everywhere. And we need to act on that assumption to protect the players.
jan Carpenter May 01, 2012 at 03:19 PM
The comments by players and coaches of women's lacrosse here, and in the national news vote no helmets whereas Ron you who do not play or coach the sport are preaching helmets. If a parent or player wants to wear a helmet they can. I see lots of kids opting for protective eye gears or concussion bands in soccer and basketball. Helmets are not mandatory for skiing but its the norm today. Parents and players should have the freedom to choose. You think we need helmets because "old school values are not taught or officiated " there is the problem we should be tackling. Take a look at the NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/sports/17lacrosse.html?pagewanted=all Most trips to the ER in this house have come from everyday normal activities like playing tag, hiking, tripping.... Will we one day be wearing helmets 24/7?
jan Carpenter May 01, 2012 at 03:21 PM
And Ron you should let players decide with their parents if they should wear a helmet in women's lacrosse.
Ron Goralski May 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Hi Jan- I think you're only reading half of what I am saying. But anyway - having never coached or played has nothing at all to do with my arguments. Wondering how many people behind any study are actual participants of the activity they are following. And I've read all the studies and have given my thoughts. Not sure what tag and hiking has to do with anything. And I'm tired of the "oh well why don't we wear helmets for everything then" argument. Quite frankly, I believe not waering a helmet while skiing or cycling is idiotic. NHL players didn't wear helmets in the past - and when it was suggested people said the same thing you are saying now. And again... how do we know the issues you speak of are being "tackled" in every single one of the areas that they need to be? Hard ball + waving sticks + young kids should = helmets. If it avoids one concussion in East Granby or Avon or Farmington this afternoon, it would have been well worth it.
Anthony Fiorino May 01, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Hey Everyone. I'd really like to take ann overall temperature on this. Is anyone willing to call in and discuss this topic on Saturday? As a father of a female lacrosse player, I find this not only interesting but concerning and I'd like as many informed opinions was possible. If this is not the place to take a poll, please email me at heycoachtony@gmail.com and let me know if you think this topic is worthy of putting on the radio on Saturday. I'll probably do it either way but there are some good opinions here so let me know what you think about chiming in on the air.
Ron Goralski May 01, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Sounds like Jan Carpenter would be perfect Tony. I would come out there but I lost my driving helmet.
Ron Goralski May 08, 2012 at 07:48 PM
FROM THE RJG INBOX: I'm glad to have come across your article as I've been doing some research on why girls aren't required to wear helmets in lacrosse. My 11-year old daughter just received a concussion two weeks during a game by getting hit in the forehead by the ball. SHe has been sidelined from all activity and still is getting daily headaches and is extremely tired. I'm very frustrated and am gathering all the information I can on this topic. Thanks for your article - appreciate it.
Ron Goralski May 08, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Hey Coach Tony on ESPN RADIO discussing this topic halfway into the show. I call in towards the end of the show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GkMGlJqUJE&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Ron Goralski May 10, 2012 at 04:01 PM
FROM THE RJG INBOX: I read your column on Girls Lacrosse and helmets with much interest. As a former ER nurse and mother of a [high school student] playing lacrosse, I have taken much heat from my daughter about her injuries. Before the season started this year, she played for a club team. She was hit, full force in the face with a stick. It shoved her eye mask up into her eyes. She suffered a concussion and still suffers from headaches and nausea. Our physician gave her some medication and released her to play. She has been hit in the head an additional 3 more times this year - twice in a game and once in practice. With 3 more games in the season, I pulled her from participation. Both times she was hit in the game, the other player was not called on it. The player that hit her full in the face was not even taken out of the game. We can call all we want for better refs, but it doesn't seem to matter. A helmet to protect her head is what she really needs. In this day and age when football players are worried about head injuries, we as parents need to look at those sorts of injuries too and remember that our kids are not even wearing helmets!! Nothing more crazy than sending your child out onto a field where other girls are waving metal sticks at their heads! It does not make sense. Maybe more parents need to visit an ER and see the kids with life threatening injuries. Maybe then they will think twice before laughing when you advocate for helmets.
Ron Goralski May 10, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I DON'T NEED ANY MORE PROOF! THANKS TO THIS MOM FOR SHARING HER STORY. NOW IT'S TIME TO TAKE SOME REAL ACTION. WHO'S IN?
Mark Kalina May 10, 2012 at 05:50 PM
When my son took up Lacrosse I was quite surprised to find out how little protection the girls used when they play. If I had a daughter and she wanted to play or if boys used that level of protection I would have some reservations in having them participate.
CRV July 14, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Brian - I don't understand the logic. "MORE dangerous if helmets were implemented" So, if we take helmets off of youth football players, the game gets less dangerous and the chances of getting a concussion decreases? The NFL would immediately stop using helmets if they agreed with you - concussions are first on their list. Keep the rules of girls lacrosse the same, and have them wear helmets. NOT for protection against body checking, but protection from flying sticks and balls.
Mona Fischer September 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
You honastly don't know the game or how it's played because most girls who get hit in the face by a ball don't know how to catch it. Gloves have been made for girls lacrosse but they aren't mandatory. The only reason firls get broken hands or cuts is because an oppent is checking to get the ball. You really need to look up the rules and how it is played then you would understand why certain injuries happen.
Ron Goralski September 16, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Does not matter how or why they occur. The fact is that they do! Plain and simple. They need protection because the game at the younger levels is not always played as written.
payattention September 24, 2012 at 04:12 PM
My daughter played Division I lacrosse as a goalie for 2 years. She sustained an average of 5 or more hits on the head each week with a helmet on and after a concussion this spring, she is having problems with memory (even paid her college tuition twice!), attention, pronouncing words, weakness, fatigue, etc. Her running speed is impaired to the point that she was unable to pass the running tests this year. Coaches should not allow players to repeatedly shoot at goalies heads and just stand there! In addition, Team Physicians should be present and actually be involved in the sports medicine programs to which they bear responsibility. When a helmet breaks, someone should be taking notice.
bethany smith October 15, 2012 at 08:36 AM
I have been playing women's lacrosse for the past 12 years and my first 1 or 2 years we were not even required to wear face masks and i noticed that once we were the majority of the girls were more willing to lead with their heads now that they had that protection on their face,which is the only thing that is actually required. I strongly believe that wearing helmets would make women's lacrosse alot more violent and more like the boys' game. Helmets are not a good idea at all, it is a no contact sport and if you even go into another player's personal bubble around their head there is a penalty or if you go to shoot when there is someone standing in front of you that is also a penalty. The rules are very strict on the ways you can hold your stick, check, craddle, shoot, defend, and do the face off so there is no need for extra protection. (also just so you know the different colored lines is because girls and guys lacrosse uses different lines....the guys field has a center line and dot and then a line on each side of the field and then a box and the crease....the girls field has a large center cirle, a restraining line on each side, the 12 meter arch and the 8meter arch, and the crease.....also on most fields the girls field is a different shape than the boys so the out of bounds lines are prob different too
Mark Kalina October 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM
The men and women's game are truly not the same game- in the way they are played. True, they have the same name and both use a Lacrosse stick and ball. Many of the game's similarities end there. Despite a women's game that should have no contact the practical reality is there will be some - even if only by accident. If the rules are properly adhered to and administered, the only effect the helmet should have is giving players an added level of protection. The helmets are available, why not use it?
Susan Batchilder April 15, 2014 at 08:38 AM
While I do not play women's field lacrosse, I have played Masters Box Lacrosse, and I do coach one of our provincial girls box lacrosse teams...helmets are a must....helmets are NOT weapons...helmets do NOT make players more aggressive. Aggressiveness is something that comes from within, not from wearing a helmet. Helmets protect from incidental stick-to-head and ball-to-head contact (and of course in box, board-to-head contact). And in our recreational Masters box lacrosse league, we wear helmet and gloves as we don't want an injury that would prevent a player from going to work the next morning. And our rules include: no stick-to-stick contact or body contact, and shooters must have a clear pathway to the net in order to shoot on the net. And our goalies wear full box lacrosse gear --- they are not stupid. If players start wearing helmets with full face masks at a young age...they will have no issue. All of my kids play hockey and box lacrosse (2 girls, 1 boy) and wear full gear. And to date (knock on wood) none have had a concussion or injury to their head or face. High sticking to the neck when being crossed-checked is another issue --- but currently the best option is good officiating. Players with smart parents will wear a helmet.

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