As of January 2021, many lacrosse goalies found themselves replacing their current chest protection that conform to new performance standards issued by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). Chest protectors meeting NOCSAE standards are now required for boys and girls at the youth level, National Federation of High School (NFHS) boy’s and girl’s rules, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for men’s and women’s rules.
The change is designed to provide improved heart protection for lacrosse athletes from the extremely rare injury called commotio cordis. It occurs when a blow is delivered to the chest area over the heart that results in an irregular heartbeat. Statistics show that 47 percent of all cases involve athletes. According to the NOCSAE, 5-15 athletes die each year from the injury – that’s a combined total from all sports.
Goalkeeper chest protectors must now incorporate the NOCSAE ND200 if it’s to be deemed legal for play. The chest protectors must also contain an SEI certification mark. Additionally, all boys and men field players will be required to have NOCSAE-approved chest protection beginning in January 2022.
Some manufacturers have already introduced chest protectors that meet the new standards, so no one will have to sit out a game. The increased protection has been lauded by a variety of coaches at prestigious colleges and universities that say the new standard is long overdue.
The upgraded standard was approved in 2019 and set to go into effect in 2021 to give manufacturers the opportunity to update their equipment and for older models to be pulled from the shelves.
Like any sport, lacrosse athletes can sustain a variety of injuries ranging from sprains, strains and contusions. While commotio cordis is an extremely rare occurrence, the new requirements for goalkeeper chest protectors proactively addresses the potential to provide athletes with an elevated level of safety.