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By Corey McLaughlin
In an unprecedented move that has affected all levels of lacrosse, NOCSAE, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, on Nov. 24 announced it had voided the certifications of two leading lacrosse helmet models — the Cascade R and Warrior Regulator — after an independent investigation and evaluation revealed they did not meet NOCSAE standards.
It was a first-of-its-kind decision for the non-profit organization that develops and publishes standards for athletic equipment, but one that was necessary, according to NOCSAE executive director and general counsel Mike Oliver. He said the organization first became aware the Cascade R and Warrior Regulator helmets may not have met the standard after lacrosse equipment manufacturer STX sent information to NOCSAE to that point — based on its own testing.
NOCSAE historically relies on manufacturers to self-certify products supported by their own testing. But after receiving the information, NOCSAE conducted its own tests and determined the R and Regulator did not comply with standard ND041.
Oliver said the models failed certain helmet drops at room temperature (72 degrees), at the highest velocity impacts (17.94 feet per second) on the top and front locations, although they passed at lower velocity impacts and at different locations, and also demonstrated failures during high-temperature impact testing.
Additionally, Oliver said neither company could provide enough internal, quality control testing data to support their claims that the helmets did, in fact, meet the standard based on their own testing.
"This is the first time that our investigation has actually gotten to this point," Oliver said when asked if decertifying the helmets was a first for NOCSAE, which was founded in 1969 in response to fatalities due to head and neck injuries in football. "We have conducted other investigations in the past, but the problems were not as severe or obvious, and there were solutions available short of decertifying helmets in the field."
Under NCAA, NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) and US Lacrosse rules, helmets are required to meet the NOCSAE standard, meaning the voided certifications affected all levels and raised concerns with high school and college seasons rapidly approaching.
Until the helmets are recertified, a process that includes an independent quality control audit, Oliver said, "It would be fair to say that the helmets are unsafe for use." He added that it could be possible for both models to pass with modifications.
US Lacrosse instructed coaches and officials — including women's officials, since goalkeepers of both genders wear helmets — to address the issue in pre-game routines with teams and that players were not permitted to play if wearing the decertified helmets. The national governing body also disseminated information as it became available to its 430,000-plus members.
While both companies disputed the decision, saying the models passed in their own independent testing at accredited labs, they also said in statements they would work with NOCSAE to reach a resolution and provide consumers with information on their respective websites and by calling customer service numbers.
Cascade on Thursday said it was confident a retrofit could be the answer and that it had sent technicians to NOCSAE's laboratory this week to test what it called "a viable and simple modification." It said a solution could come in the "coming days" and asked R owners to register helmets and to get more information at R.CascadeLacrosse.com.
Oliver said Cascade had been working on a solution that could potentially be applied at retail dealers, and could also be implemented for new helmets that have yet to ship. Warrior did not respond to request for more comment.
"We've done a lot of our internal testing on the solutions we have in place and feel very confident that we can find a solution but it has to go through the NOCSAE process," Cascade spokesperson Steve Jones said earlier in the week. "We're confident we can get something out there for everyone."
Check back to LaxMagazine.com for continued coverage of this story.
UPDATEOn Friday, December 12, Cascade announced that it had reached an agreement with NOCSAE on a solution for the Model R helmet. Read Cascade's full statement here.
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