The Dundalk Eagle

Hel­mets in girls lax? May as well as rest of pads

- By Bill Gates Sports · John Carroll · US Lacrosse · Sparrows Point

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.

No foul.

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.

 ?? PHOTO BY BILL GATES ?? A push is start­ing to make hel­mets, like the one worn here by a Loch Raven player, manda­tory in girls lacrosse.
PHOTO BY BILL GATES A push is start­ing to make hel­mets, like the one worn here by a Loch Raven player, manda­tory in girls lacrosse.
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