By: Isabella Morhaim
Oyster Bay High School’s 2022 spring sports season is well underway. Some of the sports played during this season include: tennis, softball, track and field, baseball, boys’ lacrosse, and girls’ lacrosse. While student athletes work hard to improve their game, however, one sport seems to be taking lots of hits.
The OBHS girls lacrosse team had a rough season last year, with a record of 2-11, coupled with two concussions. The current requirement for girls playing lacrosse is for all players to have a mouth guard and eye protection. While that certainly provides some layer of protection, students still run the risk of sustaining a head injury with no equipment to soften the blow. Is introducing a helmet requirement a necessary call? Neighboring school district of Oyster Bay, Jericho, made the switch to helmets for their girls lacrosse team.
With the debate over helmets ongoing in the sport, some members of the OBHS lacrosse team are skeptical that they would benefit the players. Faith Lingen, a junior at the high school and an attacker on the lacrosse team noted, “The amount of sweat that is going to be in that helmet is insane.” Lingen also shares her fashion perspective by adding, “I hate the helmets; they look dumb and super big. I prefer our eye goggles.”
As more opinions on helmets circulate, it’s most important to know the facts. An article from MedRxiv proved how wearing headgear lowered the risk of concussions. The article states, “These findings indicate that concussion rates among high school girls’ lacrosse players not wearing headgear were 59% higher than those wearing headgear. These data support the use of protective headgear to reduce the risk of concussion among high school female lacrosse athletes.” Mariana Panariello, a junior and defensive player shared her own concussion experience, which happened less than one year ago: “It all happened so fast; I felt the ball hit my head, but had no idea I got hit with a lacrosse stick, too. As much as I don’t like the look of helmets, I definitely know they are the safer alternative.”
New helmet mandates are causing controversy in the lacrosse community. Female lacrosse players are required to wear a mouth guard and eye guard, but are not required to wear helmets. Some believe that requiring helmets will make girls’ lacrosse a high-contact sport and cause more aggressiveness and risk for other injuries than currently exists. This is called the “gladiator effect.” Supporting this idea, an article from Everyday Health shows how boys’ lacrosse allows for more contact, while using a full face mask as headgear. The article states, “Investigators found that while the rate of concussion for boys and girls was nearly the same, the causes of the concussions were not. In girls’ lacrosse, stick or ball contact was the most common trigger and accounted for 72.7 percent of all concussions, and athlete-to-athlete contact accounted for 19.8 percent. For boys’ lacrosse, almost two-thirds of concussions were caused by athlete-to-athlete contact and stick or ball contact accounted for 23.5 percent.” While a helmet mandate may reduce the risk of concussion as a result of accidental stick or ball contact, the use of additional protective equipment may increase the likelihood of athlete-to-athlete contact, as seen in boys' lacrosse. This opens the door to increased aggression between players and the possibility of sustaining a concussion as a result.
If the number of concussions for OBHS girls’ lacrosse continues to rise, so will the possibility of helmets becoming the new requirement. Faith Lingen shares, “Injuries happen every year no matter what sport you play. We are never going to be completely safe while playing, so it raises the question of if helmets are really worth it or not.”