Is It Time To Mandate Helmets In CT Girls Lacrosse?

May 4th, 2022

The Middletown Press (New Haven, CT)

The sound was unforgettable.

The Stonington girls’ lacrosse team was practicing for their 2018 ECC Championship game against East Lime when a shot hit one of the team’s top defenders, Kate Reagan, in the head.

Coach Jeff Medeiros remembers that moment vividly.

“It was bad,” said Medeiros. “It looked bad, it was really bad, and she was done. She didn’t play for the rest of the season and she didn’t really go back to school (that year).”

What ensued in the days and months ahead was a series of moves that led to Stonington becoming the first, and still only, high school girls’ lacrosse team in Connecticut to wear protective helmets.

As it turns out, the bears may be ahead of the curve.

A three-year study conducted by researchers UC Davis and USA Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee found that lacrosse players who did not wear protective headgear had a 59% higher rate of head injury than those who did not wear headgear. This rate increased to 74% when the focus was on sports alone and practices were dropped.

The study tracked teams in Florida, which mandated protective head gear in 2015, and teams in those states that didn’t require head gear, and included nearly 300 school seasons and more than 350,000 athlete exposures who had to be exposed to a protective gear. was defined as an athlete participating in an exercise. a game.

US lacrosse and the National Federation of State High School Associations, as well as CIAC, which oversees high school athletics in Connecticut, do not require helmets in girls’ lacrosse, but instead require them as optional for every position other than goalie. is left in. Glasses are needed to protect the eyes.

While girls’ lacrosse, by its rules, involves less physical contact than the boys’ version of the sport – which mandates helmets – there are still dangers, including stick checks and shots.

“Unless you check out of the game, there’s going to be head-round checking,” Medeiros said. “And the ball is a hard rubber ball that moves at 60 to 70 mph. It’s almost foolish not to wear a helmet in this sport.”

Maybe a whole game change is coming to Connecticut?

“We are in constant dialogue with our Sports Med Advisory Committee on the safety of all sports,” said CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini. “Particularly for head gear in lacrosse, I know it’s something the NFHS is looking at as well.

“In many sports where head gear is optional, the NFHS has tried to collect some data and try to see what would be most appropriate in terms of recommendations. We keep up to date with the research and opinions coming from those reviews. Huh.”

For Reagan, who is now a student at High Point College in North Carolina, Stonington’s decision to wear the helmet is logical. The injury she suffered in 2018 was her second – both occurred in the same place – and the effects were long-lasting.

Reagan said, “You have these balls that are flying and if I had a helmet twice, I probably wouldn’t have a problem.” “The glasses we should wear do not cover the most important part of your body, which is your brain. Speaking to (Coach Medeiros), he said that (since 2019) girls have balls on their heads, but He didn’t get hurt because of the helmet.

It didn’t take Medeiros and the Bears long to turn to the helmet after Reagan moved. They won the ECC title the day after being injured, and advanced to the first round of the Class S playoffs before being eliminated by East Catholic in the quarter-finals.

The home bus ride was about an hour and during that time, Medeiros and his players talked about wearing head gear from next year.

“I sat down with the girls and said he has to get a helmet next year and I believe that helmet is coming sooner or later,” Medeiros said. “Wouldn’t it be cool, as a team, if we all got a helmet to support him? After all, I believe we all have to wear one anyway.”

There was also an added benefit beyond security.

“It’s going to unite us because we’re the only team with helmets,” said the coach. “And it did.”

Byers raised $3,500 during the off-season and purchased 30 Cascade-brand helmets.

Players, including Reagan, were there for practice on the first day, but Reagan then decided to walk away from the game.

“Being in that environment where there were lacrosse balls flying everywhere, even with my helmet on, I didn’t feel that way,” Reagan said. “I didn’t feel right, which is heartbreaking because I love lacrosse. I didn’t think it was in my best interest because of the severity of my injury. I’ve always been an athlete and that was my whole identity.” Throughout my life, I would play a lot of sports.

“When I lay in bed after an injury, it was taken away.”

The team remained with the plan to wear helmets, and Medeiros pointed out that there is an “adaptation period”. Some players initially complained of headaches, and had to accommodate new players every year, but eventually, the team embraced the idea and it became a source of pride.

Additionally, Medeiros said, the quality of the game was unaffected.

“We ended up going to the state championships (in 2019),” Medeiros said. “We went all the way, played 21 games and had a phenomenal season. So the helmet didn’t affect us. We played our best lacrosse.”

Helmet mandatory?

The most common concern about mandating helmets is what they might mean for the style of play. Better protected now, will the players feel invincible and thus be more aggressive and carefree on the field?

“I understand people want to be safe,” Cheshire coach Dan Warburton said. “One of the concerns is that by adding a helmet you’re going to increase the likelihood of things like physicality and shaking because people won’t worry as much about swinging and checking because they have protection.

“Right now, any player can wear them. It is the choice of the player. There are no restrictions to prevent the child from wearing it if the child needs extra protection.”

Several Connecticut high school coaches said they are concerned about increased risk-taking, but acknowledged that the benefits of head gear may be lacking.

“I think kids will be more aggressive than they used to be and obviously putting on head gear is one of the concerns,” said New Canaan coach Kristin Woods. “Glasses work really well for eye protection, but obviously head gear can help protect against concussions.”

Wilton coach Meredith Myron said taking more risks is a concern “and can lead to more aggressive play, which is not really something that anyone wants. But if studies are showing that an addition of safety level, it should be considered because the safety of our athletes is of the utmost importance.

“It’s a very small adjustment if it has a positive effect on the rate of concussion.”

A recent research study found that headgear “may not be associated with risk compensatory behavior.”

A study that was published in orthopedic journal of sports medicine It was also suggested in early 2021 that headgear may not increase risk-taking.

“Our findings suggest that real concerns about headgear caused by the ‘gladiator effect’ may not translate to sporting play,” said Dr Shane Caswell from George Mason University. USA Lacrosse Magazine,

For Reagan, the after-effects of the two aftershocks were not something that could be “fixed overnight.” She had to take medications to help her depression and lack of attention, all of which started her junior year in high school, after a second concussion.

“The way I work is not the same,” Reagan said. “I don’t have a natural enthusiasm for certain things, but it’s definitely coming back.”

His advice to players?

“Wear a helmet,” Reagan said. “Girls’ lacrosse is aggressive by nature, whether you have a helmet on or not. I think the helmet isn’t promoting more intense play, it’s protecting you even more from the inevitable roughness of the game.”

She is back in the game, coaching lacrosse at the youth league level.

Madeiros and Reagan have made helmets a topic of discussion for those teams, although they have yet to be added.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Reagan said. “They are the brains that are still developing and most vulnerable to injuries like this. I hope that in the future we can push for a state-wide mandate because we are the only team that has a helmet, which Kind of weird.”

For Stonington, helmets are now part of the game.

“I’m never going to back down,” Medeiros said. “At this point, we’re all-in. I’ve seen absolute success with it, girls totally buy it, and parents are glad I did it. Girls feel safe with helmets on, they’re in them.” feel comfortable, and they have grown to appreciate them.”

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