By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
If you are a fan of high school girls lacrosse, by now you may have noticed a few players wearing helmets instead of the goggles that have become so familiar in the sport. Last summer, U.S. Lacrosse, which writes rules for high school lacrosse that are then enforced by the National Federation of High School Associations, allowed the use of helmets beginning in 2017 as long as they meet standards and are not hard shells.
While boys lacrosse helmets are made of hard plastic and cover the entire head and face area, the new girls lacrosse helmets are pliable and adjustable, covering most of the head with a wire eye guard. Unlike the boys helmets, there is no jaw line protection and the helmets are extremely lightweight with a rubbery feel, not unlike a bicycle tire. To meet national standards, the headgear must be malleable so that it wouldn’t injury a player who doesn’t have the headgear when said player contacts an opponent who is wearing the headgear.
This year, the helmets are optional, but some states — such as Florida — have decided to make the new headgear mandatory, beginning in 2018. In South Jersey, only a handful of players have started wearing the headgear, and it takes some getting used to.
Ocean City’s Shannon O’Reilly said she wasn’t expecting to be wearing a helmet this year.
“My parents actually didn’t tell me they were getting it, and when it came in I was like, ‘I am not wearing that!’ But they persuaded me that my head is more important than what I look like. As lacrosse progresses, it gets more and more aggressive. I think eventually everyone should wear a helmet because safety is important,” O’Reilly said. “You just have to get used to it. It’s not that bad. After a while I don’t even notice I have it on, which is surprising. It looks big, but it fits on your head and you can adjust it.”
Teammate Emily DiMarino she’s been converted ever since her mother ordered her a helmet online.
“I just feel safer in my helmet. It helps prevent concussions. My mom ordered one, and Shannon ordered one, too,” she said. “We’re just trying to look at the bigger picture. If you get a concussion in one game, you could be out for who knows how long, and we don’t want that happening.”
O’Reilly said her parents were probably motivated to buy her a helmet after she got knocked around a little bit against rival Mainland Regional a year ago.
“Multiple times against Mainland last year I got hit in the head, and the year before that, as well,” O’Reilly said. “Fashion is good, but my head is more important. I don’t mind wearing it, I just had to get used to it during the preseason.”
Interestingly, while Florida mandated headgear, the state’s high school governing body didn’t specifically say players had to wear helmets. So, some players opted to go with protective headbands that are worn under the traditional goggles. According to a New York Times story published in October of 2016, recent studies show that girls lacrosse had the fifth-highest rate of concussions in high school sports, trailing football, ice hockey, boys lacrosse and girls soccer.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s an adjustment, but it’s a lot easier looking down (when going for a ground ball) because it’s completely open (near your eyes),” DiMarino said. “I have a lot more confidence going into these games because I know even if someone hits my head, I have that much more protection to block any further injury I might have without it.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN