Increased public awareness of concussions and their effects—from the NFL to youth leagues—makes it easy to understand the argument for requiring helmets, even in a sport like women’s lacrosse. But after a heated debate at the annual National Organizing Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment last month, U.S. Lacrosse will continue its ban on hard helmets and face guards for women. The decision impacts more than 250,000 women playing nationwide.
Columbia women’s lacrosse freshman midfielder Camille Richardson agrees with the decision. She has no desire to wear a helmet, saying “it would just bring us closer to football and hockey.” Her teammate Kelly Buechel points out that she’d rather have a team “beat [her] because they’re more skilled, not because they’re more brutal.”
After professional hockey players began wearing helmets in the 1970s and ’80s, the game became significantly more vicious. Helmet-to-helmet collisions in football seem to happen frequently at every level of play. Would girls’ lacrosse—in which it is currently illegal at all levels to body check—become more dangerous if the players wore helmets? Columbia senior attacker Olivia Mann notes that after protective eyewear was made mandatory at the beginning of the 2005 season, the game produced “general harder checking and rougher play.” The addition of helmets, and the tangible protection they represent, could dramatically change the nature of women’s lacrosse, including the handling and manner of defense, with players putting their bodies and heads more at risk.
According to research by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio, lacrosse has the third-highest concussion rate among women’s scholastic sports (behind soccer and basketball). The concussion rate for females is only 15% lower than for males. Regardless of whether the “best protection is no protection at all,” one might consider the sports where the rules of the men’s and women’s games are analogous—like soccer and basketball. It raises the question, Why are the rules of lacrosse different for men and women?
Source: NY Times