There are distinct differences in the gear used in men’s and women’s lacrosse that can be confusing to those new to the game. The primary difference is that women’s lacrosse is deemed a semi-contact sport, therefore, helmets are optional. Men’s lacrosse is considered full-contact.
In light of new findings about concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), many parents, coaches, and players are examining the question of helmets in women’s lacrosse. While the instance of a head injury is typically less than in other sports, accidents do happen. It’s a question that leagues have debated for many years, since head and body contact in women’s lacrosse is illegal, resulting in a foul.
Eye protection and mouthpieces are required in women’s lacrosse. The sticks are different than in men’s lacrosse, but the lacrosse balls are the same. They’re hard, move at speed, and can cause injuries ranging from severe bruising to a concussion if a player is hit by one. It can even happen to goalies, despite protective gear. That doesn’t even take into account a collision between players or being whacked by a stick.
The question of helmets for women’s lacrosse is a highly contentious topic. A study conducted in 2015 concluded that women’s lacrosse is second only to men’s football for concussions. Other studies dispute those findings and insist that women’s lacrosse isn’t as dangerous or hazardous as other sports.
Many people within the sport are working to increase awareness of the potential dangers and lobbying for the institution of helmet regulations in women’s lacrosse. Others are vehemently opposed to the use of helmets, believing it will result in fundamental changes in the way the game is played by women and make players more aggressive. Cost is another factor. Helmets can run $150 or more.
As a semi-contact sport, helmets aren’t required in women’s lacrosse but they’re not prohibited, either. A number of coaches have voluntarily made the switch to soft helmets, citing improved training methods that have resulted in women that are faster and stronger than their counterparts of even a decade ago.