Girls playing like the guys: helmets in girls lacrosse

 

Cait Abbott

 

The modern form of Women’s Lacrosse has been around since 1980, when it was first introduced at the St. Leonard’s School in Scotland. However, the sport was originally played by the indigenous peoples of America; the Hauser tribe of the Great Plains is recognized as the first to play. Since that time, the sport has evolved greatly, from the structure of the sticks, the rules, and the overall competition and level of play.

First allow me to point out the obvious: there is a striking difference between Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse, and men and women in general. From the equipment, the rules, and the amount of physicality, there are many differences that set each game apart. Men’s Lacrosse is more focused on power and speed, while Women’s Lacrosse focuses much more on finesse and fine-tuned skills. Each game has elements that make the sport special and unique.

However, due to an alarming amount of concussions, many people feel stronger action needs to be taken, so strong as to alter the graceful game and make women wear helmets. State legislation proposed to require players in public schools and recreational leagues to sport helmets. This legislation was proposed by County Del. Dana Stein, and co-sponsored by County Del. Jon Cardin. Since this piece of legislature was created in Maryland, where lacrosse can often be as important as religion or the environment, it was quickly shot down, just as the delegates expected.

Their goal was to start a conversation, and they did. US Lacrosse, a Baltimore-based corporation, responded assuring they had a task force who was diligently working to create headgear for women, and stating they should have started a dialogue with them first before trying to pass a law.

As of now, hard helmets are not allowed in the women’s game, but soft rugby-like helmets are permitted but not required.

I have played lacrosse for 11 years, from the days of fiddle sticks to years of Varsity. I have experienced the transition requiring goggles in 2005, and now, as I start my last year of lacrosse there may be another huge change that will change the game drastically.

Helmets, soft or hard, would change the sport of Women’s Lacrosse, making the game similar to the men’s game. If women started to wear helmets, the body contact in the game would increase, checking would be more physical, and the rules would have to be completely shifted in the direction of Men’s Lacrosse. It would completely after the beautiful game.

In my opinion, helmets would only increase the chance of injury. “It is possible that the introduction of more protective gear will make the game rougher for women and provide a false sense of safety,” stated Susan Reimer, columnist for The Baltimore Sun in a recent article. With helmets many players would feel invincible, as if a helmet will protect them no matter how hard of a hit they take, and, subsequently, cause more injuries from lack of restriction.

In her article “Helmets for girls: a blow to the elegant game,” Reimer makes an argument that men’s and women’s lacrosse are two completely separate sports, and the downfall to the women’s game starts with the dad’s. Reimer believes dads do not properly know how to teach the women’s game to young girls, and instead often revert to many tactics of the men’s game. But she does not simply blame the fathers; she focuses instead on the bigger picture: the refereeing.

She believes higher skilled and trained refs would help the women’s game and would be much safer and more controlled. By providing training for refs, the quality of the game increases, and this not only impacts the play but also the amount of injuries that occur. It’s easy to blame the refs, but what if they could actually make a difference in the injuries? Safety is a main goal in any sport, especially women’s sports because of our build, and by having better refs it could save the integrity of the sport, without going to the drastic measure of helmets.

Helmets are not the path Women’s Lacrosse needs to take. Reimer makes a solid point in her article suggesting Women’s lacrosse has evolved greatly, as have the quality of athletes who are now bigger, stronger, and faster; but at the end of the day it is still not Men’s Lacrosse.