A closer examination of injuries over the next two high school girls’ lacrosse seasons in Florida is now underway in order to gain greater insight into the effectiveness of women’s headgear in minimizing the risk of injury. 

Beginning this spring and continuing through the 2020 season, a research team led by principle investigator Dr. Daniel Herman of the University of Florida is compiling injury statistics for girls’ high school players in Florida in order to compare those rates to non-Florida high school players. The study is titled, “The Effect of Helmets on Injury & Player Perceptions in High School Girls’ Lacrosse.”

Funding for the study is being provided by the Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse and NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment). 

“Collecting as much information as possible is always a crucial element in making well-informed decisions, and growing this data set will be paramount in shaping the development of evidence-based player safety policies in the future,” said Dr. Bruce Griffin, director of the Center for Sport Science.

The hypothesis put forward by the researchers is that injury rates among Florida players, who are required by the state’s governing body for high school athletics to wear certified headgear that meets ASTM standard F3137, will be significantly higher than injury rates among non-Florida (non-headgear) players. That hypothesis was based on preliminary findings from a much smaller data sample in an earlier study completed in 2017. 

“From a scientific standpoint, it really doesn’t matter what directionality the hypothesis uses (positive effect, negative effect, or the null). Ultimately, the data will show you what the end of the story is,” Herman said. “What matters scientifically is whether or not the study is constructed in such a way to limit bias or confounders. We have worked hard to do that.”

Herman hopes that the data collected will help to inform leagues and sanctioning bodies in their decision-making about the use of headgear.

“There are a lot of opinions out there and a lot of people making significant decisions without having much evidence to help with that decision-making,” Herman said. “We just want to provide that information to help players, parents, coaches, and policymakers.” 

US Lacrosse and NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) rules mandate that any women’s headgear used after January 1, 2017 must meet the ASTM performance standard, F3137. The rules also state that girls’ headgear use is voluntary.

To date, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) is the only state-wide governing body that requires headgear use by female players.

Herman’s study is designed to gather injury data from high school players in multiple regions, including the West Coast, Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic, to use in the comparisons with the Florida-based data. High school athletic trainers are being utilized as the source of the reported injury data. Surveys are being used to capture feedback pertaining to the perceptions of headgear use.

Ultimately, the study aims to address three specifics questions:

• How do players, coaches, and referees perceive headgear and how does it influence their play? 
• How does headgear effect head impacts? 
• What is the effect on injury risk?

“The hope is that there is a clear and cohesive line of evidence that develops from the answers to these questions,” Herman said.

Findings are expected to be made public in late 2020 or early 2021.

“This study is an important piece of the conversation on headgear in the women’s game.  While women’s headgear has been legal optional equipment for a couple of seasons, we only have anecdotal reports on the impact,” said Caitlin Kelley, women’s game senior manager at US Lacrosse. “This study will provide critical data to base our policy and rule review.”
 

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