Ahead of their Game – Women’s Lacrosse Soft Headgear

Quince Orchard High School, Darnestown MD (QOHS) girls lacrosse (lax) may be having an off 2016 season but they appear to be ahead of other MoCo schools in their approach towards that sports’ future. They wear soft headgear.

Soft Headgear - Girls Lax

Soft Headgear – Girls Lax

First disclaimer, I have watched the movie Concussion and also own a hard MIPS cycling helmet for brain protection. Those facts do not make me an expert on either subject – a concussion caused by contact in football or resulting from cycling. In the case of my MIPS cycling helmet – it was my choice to buy a perceivably safer helmet for a sport I enjoy.

What’s a MIPS helmet? Well first it is hard not soft. Secondly, it was developed by five neurosurgeons and scientists in Sweden, created to reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head. In a helmet with MIPS brain protection system, a low friction layer separates the shell and the liner. When a helmet with MIPS technology is subjected to an angled impact, the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head. Lastly, since 2001 over 1 million MIPS layers have been produced to standards they created.

This brings me back to high school sports that people play. For high school girls it could be lacrosse. In the case of the decision by QOHS’s lacrosse team to wear soft headgear it appears to be one based on personal choice and consumption.

Team warmups

Team warmups

Second disclaimer, I think QOHS is only school in the DMV to put the gear in play. Why? Because I have photographed girls lax for a many years and across numerous state sports jurisdictions that include the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun in Virginia and of course Montgomery in Maryland. I photographed MPSSAA (Maryland Pubic Secondary School Athletic Administration) state playoffs as well as at the collegiate level. I have seen no other girls’ lax teams wear soft headgear. The gear may exist in the DMV but I haven’t seen it in play.

So, I put a call into Jeff Sullivan, Athletic Assistance with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Athletics to inquire about soft headgear for girls lax. Jeff was straightforward and indicated that MCPS follows the rules as established by MPSSAA and as recommended by US Lacrosse. He indicated that QOHS actions were allowed because under US Lacrosse’s Other Personal Equipment rules allow that all field players may wear soft headgear. Read that as being allowed and not as a mandate or recommendation.

US Lacrosse, based in Baltimore, defines girl’s soft headgear as any head covering without hard or unyielding parts and must allow for integration of required legal eye protection. As of January 1, 2017 (next sports season) there will be a new performance standard – not a design standard – called ASTM F3137 for women’s soft headgear. ASTM International develops and delivers voluntary consensus standards.

Game action QO vs Wootton

Game action QO vs Wootton

The ASTM standard is the first-ever performance standard for women’s lacrosse headgear, developed to help reduce impact forces associated with stick and ball contact in women’s lacrosse. The standard makes it necessary that developers adhere to reliable and repeatable methods for evaluating the headgear.

MCPS, of course, is monitoring all this. Should MPSSA move towards a recommendation to require use of soft headgear then the county will most likely move in that direction. Until then, beginning in 2017, there will be a performance standard to comply with and perhaps multiple designs of soft headgear to make a personal choice amongst.

The physical contact one sees as allowed in men’s lacrosse is different from the women’s sport. I don’t find one lacrosse version more exciting than the other but in my opinion the women’s game is by its own rules more controlled and protective. So maybe that is where the future decision lies. Should US Lacrosse recommend headgear (soft or semi-hard) would the nature of its women’s game change and would it be safer?

In action

In action

Stay tuned.

For more information pertaining to this subject please click on the links as follows:

US Lacrosse online article: Safety a heady issue

US Lacrosse Girls Rulebook: 2016 Womens Rulebook

US Lacrosse Girls equipment: Sports Equipment

ASTM Standards: ASTM F3137

The pictures included in this article are of the May 3rd 2016 game between Quince Orchard and Thomas Wootton and were culled specifically to show the soft headgear in action.