February 15, 2013

Delegates Agree to Major Modifications of Maryland Headgear Bill

by Paul Ohanian | LaxMagazine.com

A pair of Baltimore County delegates introduced a bill in Maryland that would require headgear in girls' youth lacrosse to comply with a set of standards determined by a state concussion task force. The delegates later agreed to allow US Lacrosse to provide updated language for the bill.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

updated 02.15.2013 at 2.04 p.m.

US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen confirmed Friday that Maryland General Assembly Delegates Jon Cardin (D) and Dana Stein (D) have agreed to major modifications to the language on House Bill 1123, which they co-sponsored. The agreement on the part of the delegates stems from direct telephone conversations that Stenersen has had with each over the past 48 hours regarding the proposed legislation.

"They are effectively pulling the bill, which is wonderful news," Stenersen said.

Stenersen noted that the delegates agreed to allow US Lacrosse to provide updated language for the bill that will drastically modify its original intent. Instead of mandating headgear use by youth and high school players, the focus of the bill will change to requiring mandatory sport-specific education, training and certification for youth and high school coaches consistent with US Lacrosse education curricula.

"We are thrilled that the delegates are willing to work with us and are supportive of this change," Stenersen said Friday. "We have long advocated sport-specific education for lacrosse coaches and officials according to our standardized curricula as the most important intervention to providing a safer, more enjoyable youth sports experience, and this looks to be a wonderful opportunity to advance that goal."

While the delegates had no discussions with US Lacrosse prior to drafting the original bill, it appears that the recent conversations helped provide a better understanding of US Lacrosse's ongoing safety efforts for both boys' and girls' lacrosse. The organization has spent millions of dollars developing and delivering national education standards for coaches and officials since its inception in 1998, and through its Sports Science and Safety Committee, continues to be a recognized leader in advocating for and sponsoring of research initiatives.

"In talking through the initial language with the delegates, we reached a consensus on sport-specific training as a more appropriate priority," Stenersen said. "They were in agreement that we were providing proactive leadership in this area, and we agreed to keep them informed of our ongoing efforts related to head injury education and prevention in both men's and women's lacrosse."


original report 02.13.2013

Bill Introduced in Maryland to Require Headgear in Girls' Lacrosse

US Lacrosse continues to take proactive steps on issue

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Bill (PDF)

Two Baltimore County delegates have introduced a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would require headgear to be worn during girls’ youth lacrosse practices and games. The bill defines youth lacrosse players as those who are under 19 years of age, and that the required headgear would have to comply with standards to be set forth by a state concussion task force established by the Board of Education.

House Bill 1123, sponsored by Del. Jon Cardin (D) and Del. Dana Stein (D), was submitted on Feb. 8. It is scheduled to be heard by the House Ways and Means Committee at 1 p.m. March 13. The bill must be approved by the committee before it moves to the House floor. It is one of 261 bills currently before the Ways and Means Committee.

Cardin, who played lacrosse at Tufts University and co-sponsored a 2004 bill making lacrosse the official team sport of Maryland, said the legislation is intended to provide a safe environment for children participating in recreational sports and to advance the debate about protective gear in women's lacrosse. 

“I’m well aware that there are legit arguments on both sides on this. I think we need to push the conversation before more people get hurt,” Cardin said. “There’s an argument to be made that if you have more protection, it gives ground for referees to allow for rougher and more damaging play. Just because you have protection doesn’t mean you have to player rougher. I don’t buy that argument.”

In a joint press release, Delegates Cardin and Stein stated that “because US Lacrosse has no timeline for recommendations and no requirement for those recommendations to develop into actual rules, Stein and Cardin hope the legislation will expedite movement towards a safer playing environment.”

US Lacrosse president and CEO Steve Stenersen characterized the bill as well-intentioned but premature.


US Lacrosse appreciates the Delegates’ concern about athlete safety, but we don’t understand why they chose not to contact the sport’s Maryland-based national governing body, and the respected physicians and researchers who comprise our Sports Science and Safety Committee, to learn what is being done to address this important player safety issue before introducing short-sighted and confusing legislation,” Stenersen said in a statement.

"Prevention of head injuries in both men's and women's lacrosse continues to be a priority of US Lacrosse. 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."

US Lacrosse has long advocated that its coach and official education programs should be mandated and represent the most powerful intervention with respect to reducing the risk of injury in both men's and women's lacrosse. The organization also has been working with ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) to develop a headgear manufacturing standard specific to women's lacrosse.

In November, the ASTM women’s lacrosse head gear subgroup voted to draft language about what those equipment standards should be. It is expected that those standards will be forwarded to the full ASTM membership later this year. Additionally, Dr. Trey Crisco, a member of US Lacrosse’s Sports Science and Safety Committee, has conducted research funded by NOCSAE and US Lacrosse on acceleration and impact force from stick checks in women’s lacrosse. US Lacrosse is also working with NOCSAE to improve ball safety.

"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," Stenersen said.

"It is simply irresponsible to enact legislation requiring head protection in women's lacrosse without a clear understanding of the mechanism of head injury in a version of the sport that is entirely different from its male counterpart, and without head protection designed and manufactured specifically to mitigate that injury mechanism. In both cases, US Lacrosse is providing prudent, focused leadership based on well-founded medical and research protocols."

HB 1123 has to pass through several phases of the legislative process before it becomes law, including floor consideration by both chambers of the State House before being presented to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to be signed into law.

There is no other state government or atheltic association in the nation that mandates headgear for female lacrosse players. The Bullis School, a private institution in Potomac, Md., began requiring soft helmets for its women's lacrosse team in the 2012 season. It is believed to be the first and only institution to do so.

Current US Lacrosse rules allow for soft headgear in girls’ youth lacrosse, but do not require it. The soft headgear rule was intended to allow players to protect themselves against soft tissue contusions, not concussions.

At its December 2012 meeting, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports developed a statement saying that the NCAA "does not view the use of soft headgear products as equipment for the prevention of concussion in non-helmeted sports." The release was in response to an increase in requests for medical waivers for soft headgear. The statement noted that "placing headgear on a student-athlete may indirectly justify striking them in the head by opponents, especially in sports where this has never been the intent (for example, soccer, basketball, women's lacrosse)."


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