“Finally, They’re starting to take notice!” That’s what a lot of concerned parents are saying about protective headgear for women’s lacrosse. As much as I believe that women should play with a similar helmet to men, I also understand that there's the school of thought that believes this will cause a more aggressive game. But the facts are that concussions are on the rise in all sports and the gear companies are trying to develop the safety equipment as quick as possible. One of these companies on the forefront is Cascade Sports, now under the Bauer Hockey umbrella. Cascade turned the game on its head with their LX Headgear last season, even though it initially met with a lukewarm reception it has started to gain popularity going into the 2018 season with many NCAA programs voluntarily wearing the LX for protection, which hopefully will cause a trickle down effect into the HS and Youth areas of the sport.
Lacrosse is a sport that involves flailing metal sticks and a hard rubber ball that can be hurled at speeds over 100 mph. But while the violent style of the men's game requires players to protect their bodies with pads and their heads with helmets, the women's game, designed to be less rough, calls for only safety goggles and mouth guards. That difference has become a matter of controversy as public concern grows over sports-related concussions. Two state legislators in lacrosse-crazy Maryland introduced a bill in 2013 to require helmets but withdrew it after coaches protested that the measure would change a game of speed and dexterity into a contest of brute force.
"The beauty of the girls game is it's a lot more finesse, not bodies slamming and slashing and stick violations," is what most women’s coaches will say. "The take is once you start with a helmet, girls are going to think, 'Now I can go harder.'"
That's what some observers believe happened in 2004, when U.S. Lacrosse, the sport's governing body, began requiring female players to wear goggles designed to prevent eye injuries.
"It became a little more of a physical game, Girls were taking checks a little closer to the head than normal, purely because players were thinking, 'Oh, she's protected.' After that, the refs got more involved and the game went back to normal." So was the consensus of USA Lacrosse.
The 2004 change took place in the midst of a fourfold rise in the reported concussion rate among high school girls’ lacrosse players. Ann Carpenetti, managing director of game administration for U.S. Lacrosse, said the reasons for that aren't clear, though suspicions center on rougher play as well as increased vigilance about the injury.
The rules of girl’s lacrosse allow athletes to wear soft headgear such as padded headbands and "scrum caps" — thin foam helmets donned by some rugby players — to prevent cuts. Carpenetti, though, said there is no evidence to suggest that such equipment reduces the risk of concussions."If we're going to have an allowance that says you can wear soft headgear, we have a responsibility to research it," she said.
That led to an experiment conducted last year by Joseph Crisco, a professor of orthopedics at Brown University. Following research that found that most concussions in the girls game are the result of sticks to the head, he invited young players to his lab to whack a crash dummy head with lacrosse sticks so he could measure the impact of their blows. The girls hit the head hard enough to bend their aluminum sticks, a show of force Crisco said would rarely occur in the real world, but the average impact was only about 70 on the Gadd Severity Index, a measurement developed by the auto industry to predict traumatic brain injuries such as a fractured cranium or internal bleeding.
That's a pretty low number; football helmets are designed to withstand impacts as high as 1,200 GSI, a level of protection that prevents about 95 percent of catastrophic head injuries. However, Crisco said that doesn't tell the full story. Concussions, he noted, aren't detected through physical evidence like a cracked skull but through symptoms such as headache, amnesia and confusion. Much about the injury remains unknown, including the force required to produce one.
"We know that helmets don't protect against (all) concussions," he said. "Whether they can reduce the number in girls lacrosse, we don't know the answer to that. They would reduce the severity of impact, but we don't know if that would be enough. “Nonetheless, U.S. Lacrosse is planning to draft technical standards for female protective headgear. That should be done by early 2014, Carpenetti said, allowing sporting goods companies to develop models that, with luck, might be available by 2016. She added, however, that she expects any new headgear to remain optional for the foreseeable future. “I don't think there's a silver bullet," she said. "Nobody thinks there's a silver bullet to concussions."
Cascade LX Headgear is specifically designed for the women’s game with proven protection and lightweight ventilated design making it easy to stay protected on the field, unlike Rugby headgear that was used by some in the past to combat concussion, the LX has integrated the goggle right into the helmet for little to no movement. The liner of the LX features Poron XRD, a foam that dissipates forces experienced upon impact. The shell is tough on impact but flexible enough to not cause injury to an unprotected player.
Confident, Protected, Happy. Chances are if you ask players you'll hear these words included when they talk about the new headgear. (Just watch the video below) In the minds of many the time has come and the technology is right on track. What better time to start a Revolution?