US Lacrosse Joins NOCSAE is Funding Girls’ Lacrosse Head Injuries Research
Feb 24, 2012 -- In its continuing efforts to increase and promote the safety of the game, US Lacrosse has joined the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) in providing research dollars for injury data specific to women’s lacrosse. The funding supports the work of J.J. Trey Crisco, Ph.D., Henry Frederick Lippitt Professor of Orthopaedic Research, director of the bioengineering laboratory at the Brown University Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital, and a member of the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee.
||Data collected in a new research study could assist in eventually establishing a headgear standard for women's lacrosse.
The aim of Crisco’s one-year project, "Head Accelerations from Various Stick Checks in Girls’ Lacrosse: A Surrogate Impact and Pilot Field Study," is to provide data that could assist NOCSAE in establishing a headgear standard for women’s lacrosse. NOCSAE’s Board of Directors rejected last month a proposal to establish a women’s lacrosse headgear standard by citing a lack of sport-specific injury data that could support a standard at this time.
US Lacrosse, the national governing body for men’s and women’s lacrosse, has advocated a similar position — a standard is needed for women’s lacrosse headgear, but before that can happen, greater research and data is needed to develop such a standard.
"We need a standard based on science," said Ann Carpenetti, managing director of game administration at US Lacrosse. "That’s why we’re supporting the study."
Crisco’s research will involve the use of in-helmet sensors to measure head acceleration. Since helmets are not worn in girls’ and women’s lacrosse, the project will involve the use of a surrogate head form — basically crash test dummies — for one part of the research, supplemented by scrimmages specifically selected for the study in which players will wear the sensor-equipped headgear. Players will be asked to deliver both mild and aggressive stick checks to the head.
Crisco emphasizes that the research study is intended to provide data that could be used to combat all types of head injuries, not just concussions, which have drawn significant public attention recently. Every current helmet standard, in all sports, is designed to prevent traumatic brain injuries (TBI). While there is debate on the issue, many neurologists classify concussions as outside of the TBI grouping, which is defined as tissue damage that can be seen on a CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI.).
"There’s no standard for concussion injury," said Crisco. "This research may help, but it’s not designed specifically for that purpose."
"We’re not only looking at an intervention to protect against concussions," said Carpenetti. "Having a standard that will protect other head injuries is equally as important."
While concussions may have stirred the recent debate about helmets in women’s lacrosse, Crisco and Carpenetti both believe that many of the voices in the debate don’t understand the significant differences in the rules between girls’ and boys’ lacrosse. The girls’ game is an incidental contact sport, and mandating the use of boys’ helmets could actually increase injury rates.
"You never want to do more harm," said Crisco. "Using a hard shell runs that risk of injuring other players since they don’t have all the additional protective equipment that the boys wear. Standards for helmets must be developed specifically for the intended sport."
"We want research to guide what the rules should be," said Carpenetti. "That’s how US Lacrosse can provide greater guidance to those who want more protection."
Upon completion of the study, Crisco will prepare an abstract as well as a research paper outlining the findings. He will submit a report to NOCSAE and to USL’s Sport Science and Safety Committee. He will not, however, provide any specific recommendations. That responsibility will be left to others.
"Hopefully, this study will be one piece of information used in the standard development," said Crisco.
Carpenetti is mindful of the unique role that US Lacrosse can play in furthering the discussion. The organization has identified participant safety as one of its priorities since its inception in 1998, and helping to fund this research continues its leadership in that area.
"We’ve been proactive and transparent in our game safety efforts and will continue to be," said Carpenetti. "It’s very important for us to lead in this effort, but it takes time. We will do all we can to ensure that the standard ultimately established for head protection in women’s lacrosse will be based on research, taking into consideration the unique rules, history and injuries that occur in the women’s game."
The NOCSAE Standards Process
The NOCSAE Board of Directors is continually looking for ways to improve athlete safety and routinely reviews its standards and technology with emerging data on injuries, possible interventions and preventions that may be implemented through standards development. As a piece of athletic equipment, a helmet’s specifications are set and required to be met by NOCSAE, which is a non-profit organization founded in 1969 with the mission of commissioning research on and establishing standards for protective sports equipment. NOCSAE standards are documents that define performance criteria for a specific piece of sports equipment and the test method for measuring that performance. All NOCSAE standards are voluntary compliance guidelines until a governing body, such as US Lacrosse, adopts the NOCSAE standard in its rules. Read more at www.noscae.org.
About the US Lacrosse Sport Science and Safety Committee
Formed in 1999, the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee was created to take a closer look at injury prevention and sports medicine issues involved with the game of lacrosse. Its 25 members are all national experts in various medical disciplines, and share the common mission of utilizing the existing sports medicine literature and growing the body of lacrosse safety knowledge in order to objectively advise US Lacrosse and the lacrosse community on factors that may enhance the safety and quality of experience in the sport of lacrosse at all levels. Read more at www.uslacrosse.org/safety.
— Paul Ohanian
Dr. Trey Crisco contributed to this article.