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posted 06.23.2011 at 3.15 p.m. by Paul Krome

Correcting the Record: Headgear, not Helmets

The word helmet can elicit passionate responses in the women's lacrosse community. According to the Associated Press, US Lacrosse proposed the development of a women's lacrosse helmet standard to an athletic equipment testing organization last weekend.

That is not true.

In November, US Lacrosse made a written request of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) to develop headgear standards for women's lacrosse. Members of the US Lacrosse staff and its Sports Science and Safety Committee followed that up with a presentation to the NOCSAE Board of Directors June 17-18 in Chapel Hill, N.C., providing information on women's lacrosse rules, culture and injury data.

As you may know, current rules for women's and girls' lacrosse give players the option of wearing soft headgear. But there's never been any specifications developed for such a piece of headgear for women's lacrosse. You may see some players today wearing headgear used in women's soccer or other sports, none of which was designed for use in women's lacrosse.

So if women's lacrosse rules allow for the use of headgear, it'd make sense that headgear for women's lacrosse be available. One of the first steps in that process is a manufacturing standard; thus US Lacrosse's request to NOCSAE, a 42-year-old nonprofit that has researched and authored standards for athletic equipment in a variety of sports.

Somehow, media covering the NOCSAE meeting erroneously reported that US Lacrosse asked for a women's lacrosse helmet standard. The AP reported that, and outlets such as The Washington Post picked up the story.

But no such request for a women's lacrosse helmet standard occurred. Current injury data does not support the need for helmets for field players in women's lacrosse. US Lacrosse's goal is to work with NOCSAE to develop a unique standard for women's lacrosse headgear (as opposed to supporting the use of men's lacrosse or football helmet standards) for use by field players in the women's game.

The differences between "helmet" and "headgear" may be minor to casual sports fans, but they carry significance to those involved in women's lacrosse. Helmets could mean a whole new ballgame.

"If you introduce a hard shell helmet and a facemask, there is no way that won't change the game," Dr. Fred Mueller, a member of NOCSAE, said to The Chapel Hill News. "It happened in football; it happened in ice hockey."

For more on this topic, read a blog entry by USL CEO Steve Stenersen and check out the health and safety section of USLacrosse.org, which includes the presentation to NOCSAE.

As of now, NOCSAE had not yet notified US Lacrosse of its intension to pursue the development of a headgear standard for women's lacrosse. More to follow if or when that happens.