By Ken Reed

Unlike soccer, in which boys and girls — and men and women — play by virtually the same set of rules, lacrosse has traditionally had a different set of rules for males (contact allowed) and females (contact not allowed).

As such, female participants haven’t been required to wear helmets — like they do in the boys/mens game.

However, as concern over head and brain injuries has increased in the girls game, that is changing. Many high schools now strongly encourage, or require, girls lacrosse players to wear headgear.

Bill Pierce, the athletic director for the Corning-Painted Post school district in upstate New York, where the varsity and junior varsity girls’ lacrosse teams last season were required to wear headgear, said it wasn’t hard for him to make the decision.

“We put mouth guards on their teeth and have them wear goggles to protect their eyes,” said Pierce, citing two established equipment requirements in girls’ lacrosse.

“The most valuable commodity they have is their brain, so we were all in when it came to protecting the most important part of their body.”

Girls lacrosse has the fifth-highest rate of concussions in high school sports, following football, ice hockey, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ soccer.

As is the case in football, helmets can’t prevent all concussions. Helmets cover the skull but inside the skull the brain still flops around against the skull (which can lead to a concussion). Until someone invents a helmet for the brain inside of the skull, we will continue to have concussions in sports.

That said, headgear has been shown to lessen head trauma caused by ball-to-head and stick-to-head contact — neither of which is uncommon in girls lacrosse.

Three years ago, Dawn Comstock, an associate professor of epidemiology for the Pediatric Injury Prevention, Education and Research Program at the Colorado School of Public Health, published research that revealed that most concussions in girls’ lacrosse occurred when players were struck by the ball or a stick.

Stephanie Cooper, a former college lacrosse player who is currently Corning-Painted Post High School’s varsity coach, believed prior to this season that going to headgear would irreparably change the game and make it too much like the male version of the sport.

“I now see the benefits,” Cooper said, adding that her team incurred no head injuries last season. “If the rules are enforced, it doesn’t change the style of play or increase the physicality of the game.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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