While a Maryland bill requiring girls' lacrosse players to wear headgear was met with an outcry of opposition from the lacrosse community and quickly withdrawn, its authors say it has served its purpose. As participation in girls' lacrosse has increased, so have concerns about player safety, most notably, the risk of concussion. (Currently, helmets and facemasks are mandated in men's lacrosse, while helmets are banned in women's lacrosse for all but goalkeepers.) Delegates Dana Stein and Jon Cardin say that the proposed bill "accomplished an important goal of pushing the conversation to include vital safety concerns and is a win-win for parents and youth athletes."
Lacrosse coaches opposed the measure, arguing that headgear would actually increase aggression and injury risk due to a false perception of greater protection. The bill also lacked support from the sport's governing body, US Lacrosse, as well as the SFIA Lacrosse Council, formed in January to address player safety, among other issues. Both organizations expressed interest in further working with legislators on the issue, however.
"Prevention of head injuries in both men's and women's lacrosse continues to be a priority of US Lacrosse," said US Lacrosse president Steve Stenersen. "We are actively engaged in numerous interventions focused on reducing the risk of head injury in both men's and women's lacrosse, and we have been recognized among the national sports medicine community for our collaboration and proactivity in this regard.
"Additionally, US Lacrosse continues to fund and lead research to better understand the frequency and severity of head injury specific to both men's and women's lacrosse, and we have been working with ASTM International for more than a year to develop a consensus headgear standard for women's lacrosse based on the results of that research and the importance of appropriately balancing player safety with game integrity."
The SFIA Lacrosse Council also issued a statement showing its support for the work being done by US Lacrosse:
"We believe the critical element in making the game safe is to educate lacrosse coaches, officials, players, parents and fans on the rules of lacrosse and we support US Lacrosse's effort to do so. We are committed to working with national governing bodies and rules and standards organizations to help develop safety standards around protective equipment and to building protective gear that meets or exceeds those standards."