On Tuesday, August 10, ESPN aired its weekly sports news magazine television show E:60. The show contained a segment produced by Tom Farrey that featured two injured girls' high school players from Pittsburgh (Pa.) and suggested that hard helmets should be incorporated into the women’s game.
US Lacrosse, the nonprofit national governing body for men and women’s lacrosse in the United States, writes the rules for the girls and youth game and provides best-practice leadership in the area of lacrosse-specific injury research that provides invaluable perspective in the rule making process. We are pleased that the ESPN production helps to raise awareness of the serious nature of concussion injury, as well as the importance of seeking appropriate medical care whenever concussion is suspected and adhering to return-to-play guidelines post injury.
The E:60 piece, which focused specifically on women’s lacrosse, also helps to demonstrate the serious challenges both boys' and girls' lacrosse are facing across the nation as a result of the sport's rapid growth. In developing lacrosse areas, like Pittsburgh, where youth leagues and the state high school athletic association do not require sport-specific training to US Lacrosse standards for coaches or officials, it is troubling – yet expected – that girls playing lacrosse may be at increased risk of injury. US Lacrosse remains concerned and focused on proactively addressing the issue of player safety in both men's and women’s lacrosse through the development of comprehensive lacrosse-specific training and certification programming for coaches and officials, as well as a constant review of the rules and equipment.
Because the brief E:60 piece questions whether or not additional equipment protection is needed in women's lacrosse, US Lacrosse wants to take the opportunity to educate viewers about the issues behind the story and share what we have been doing proactively for many years to maintain the integrity and safety in the game of women’s lacrosse.
Research and Scientific Evidence
• US Lacrosse maintains a Sports Science & Safety Committee comprised of respected doctors from a number of specialties, as well as researchers and administrators, who are leaders in the field of sports medicine, manage lacrosse-lacrosse specific injury research, and provide invaluable perspective and guidance to help US Lacrosse make informed decisions with respect to player safety and risk management.
• US Lacrosse bases rule changes and equipment recommendations on valid epidemiological studies and considers the comparative risk of lacrosse compared to other sport. While the National Federation of High School’s (NFHS) 2008-09 and 2009-10 studies, which was loosely cited in the E:60 production, provides some comparative sport data on concussions, the sample size and geographic representation was very limited, and the concussion rate for girl's lacrosse was statistically equivalent to that of girl's soccer...although that was not disclosed. US Lacrosse has been studying the frequency and severity of injury in high school boys' and girls' lacrosse in a number of ways -- although that was not disclosed in the ESPN piece -- including the ongoing funding of the only lacrosse-specific high school injury study in the country, a report on which can be found here:
• Research shows that helmets do not necessarily prevent concussions.
Rapid Growth of Lacrosse and Limited Supply of Trained Officials and Coaches in Pittsburgh, Pa. Causes Challenges and Safety Concerns for Players
• The girls who are profiled in this E:60 piece play lacrosse and obtained concussions during play in their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa. Pittsburgh is a developing area for women’s lacrosse and has been considered an area of concern because of its failure to adopt national, lacrosse-specific training standards for youth and high school coaches and officials.
• The Pittsburgh area does not currently require or enforce US Lacrosse training or certification for officials or coaches at the youth and high school levels. US Lacrosse encourages parents and players to demand appropriately-trained coaches and officials.
• The Pittsburgh area continues to have a shortage of properly-trained officials, which leads to officials who are not well versed in the letter and spirit of the rules of women’s lacrosse. When officials who do not fully understand the rules of a sport step on the field to officiate a game between players who may have been taught by coaches who do not fully understand the rules, player safety is obviously compromised.
• Despite US Lacrosse efforts to encourage the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to recommend or mandate US Lacrosse educational standards for its lacrosse coaches and officials, the PIAA continues to discourage its coaches and officials from adhering to US Lacrosse educational standards.
US Lacrosse’s Educational Resources
• US Lacrosse works a number of national organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) to educate the national lacrosse community on concussion injury.
• US Lacrosse has long promoted the value of neurocognitive baseline testing as one way to help assess and treat concussion injury.
• Extensive concussion management and educational resources are available on uslacrosse.org.
What US Lacrosse is Doing to Ensure Rules and Equipment are Adequate to Maintain Safety
• At the 2010 US Lacrosse Women’s Rules Meeting on August 7, the committee recommended significant rule changes that significantly increase the severity of penalties given to players and teams who play recklessly and without regard for the rules or player safety. If passed by the US Lacrosse Board of Director’s in September, 2010, the following rules will be in effect for the 2010-11 season:
- In a single game, for the girl who receives two yellow cards for any major foul, including checks to the head, she will be removed from the game and will not be allowed to play in the following game.
- In a single game under the full-checking rules, for the girl who receives a red card for any flagrant foul, including a check to the head, she will be removed from the game and will not be allowed to play for the next 2 games.
- In a single game, for the team that accumulates 3 cards in a game for any reason, the team will have to play a player-down for the remainder of the game and will continue to lose players for each subsequent card received.
- Additionally, coach cards are included in the cumulative card count, which requires coaches to be more accountable for the play of their athletes.
• US Lacrosse continues to offer educational programs and services for coaches and officials that emphasize safety and respect in addition to education and certification.
• While protective eye wear has been mandatory since 2003, soft protective headgear has long been allowed within the equipment requirements for women’s lacrosse. Any player may wear soft headgear to enhance the safety of their playing experience. Additionally, US Lacrosse is investigating the development of women's lacrosse-specific manufacturing standards for headgear.
• Open letter to women’s lacrosse
• Differences between men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse
• Why women's lacrosse is not played with additional protective equipment
• Concussion management and education