The Dundalk Eagle
Helmets in girls lax? May as well as rest of pads
Huh. A little thing like an entire sports season being cancelled, and I miss what could be a budding controversy. Or maybe just evolution in progress.
I even personally witnessed the start of this potential controversy last year, and somehow it didn’t register on me.
There is a movement afoot to put helmets on girls lacrosse players.
Here’s where I stand: if they’re going to have girls lacrosse players wear helmets, then don’t stop there. Go all the way and also have them wear shoulder pads and heavy gloves.
Or they could, you know, just enforce the rules of girls lacrosse.
Boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse are meant to be two variations of the same game.
The boys play a contact sport; hence the equipment not dissimilar from football. I once saw a goalie keep the ball and get to midfield, where he was upended: he was knocked into the air and did a complete rotation before hitting the ground.
Girls lacrosse is a game of minimal contact, of footwork, finesse and ball movement. Girls lacrosse players are covered by an imaginary “bubble” which an opponent’s stick is not allowed to enter; if it does, it’s a foul.
Well, that’s how it used to be. I’ve been covering girls/ women’s lacrosse since 1984. “That “bubble” faded away some time ago.
Still, women’s lacrosse is not meant to be a game of contact. You know that because they don’t wear shoulder pads, helmets and heavy padded gloves.
When they started having players wear goggles, I suspected the sport was headed down this path. Sticks were not allowed around a player’s head, but best to be cautious, right?
Only now players are a little more aggressive with their sticks around an opponent’s head, because, hey, their eyes are protected.
And the violation isn’t being called as much, anymore. Just like they stopped calling fouls when a stick entered a player’s bubble.
I kinda understand: who wants a game to be interrupted by a whistle every 20 seconds (well, other than field hockey)? Chicken or the egg: did officials stop blowing the whistle because players were consistently ignoring the rule? Or did players become more aggressive because it wasn’t being called?
In a Sun article a few months ago by Rich Scherr discussing the issue of helmets, a John Carroll player who is the only one on her team to wear a helmet (due to having suffered multiple concussions, which I do understand) says the helmet gives her the confidence to charge past players to the goal.
So, wearing a helmet can encourage aggressive play. Which is why I say, don’t just give the girls helmets; give them the shoulder pads and heavy gloves at the same time.
May as well get ahead of the problem, before there are negative consequences from girls playing aggressively with no physical protection below the neck.
I understand the concern over concussions. But if the game is played by the rules, there shouldn’t be any contact to the head.
In his story, Scherr talks about a father who started an organization pushing for mandatory helmets in girls lacrosse after his daughter suffered a brain injury after receiving two quick strikes to the head.
That was poor coaching and poor officiating. Players should be trained to know they can’t swing their sticks wildly, and particularly not anywhere near another player’s head.
Makes helmets mandatory, and players will no longer think twice about it. And helmets, you know, aren’t guaranteed to prevent all injuries.
The helmet design approved by US Lacrosse is lightweight, with integrated goggles and no face mask.
One local coach agreed that if the girls game is officiated correctly, there should be no need for helmet protection.
But when shown a photo of a player wearing a helmet, they conceded “I kind of like them.”
I saw them in use during the 2019 season. The Loch Raven girls team used helmets, but for some reason it didn’t strike me as odd when I watched the Raiders play Sparrows Point.
Maybe, subconsciously, I was already accepting the inevitable.
The Loch Raven coach told Scherr that, with the helmets, his players would shrug off contact and drive straight to the goal.
(He also said he decided to use helmets because his roster is limited in numbers and can’t afford to lose players to head injuries. Again, that’s understandable.)
Loch Raven handily won both games against helmetless Sparrows Point.