Florida girls lacrosse headgear ignites debate

March 31, 2015 / LacrosseSports Medicine
High school girls are not required to wear headgear when playing lacrosse, unlike their male counterparts. Unless they live in Florida.

High school girls lacrosse players in Florida are required by the state to wear protective headgear.
High school girls lacrosse players in Florida are required by the state to wear protective headgear.

The state athletic association took it upon itself last month to approve a mandate that all high school girls lacrosse players wear headgear. Its intent was to protect young student-athletes, and with the spotlight on head trauma having additional safeguards made sense. But not everyone agrees.

Ann Carpenetti, vice president of lacrosse operations at U.S. Lacrosse, calls the decision “irresponsible,” according to the New York Times. She argues that the decision could encourage players to be more aggressive on the field.

Boys lacrosse players wear hard-shell helmets, but the girls game largely forbids contact with opponents. That made protective headgear more nuisance than necessity.

From the New York Times:

“It serves no purpose, other than being a costly distraction to parents and the players,” said Nikki Krakower, the coach of the girls’ team at Gainesville High. “It’s ridiculous.”

Opponents of the mandate said the rule was especially flawed because the Florida-approved headgear – the type used most commonly is a 10-millimeter-thick headband – is flimsy.

“A headband is only going to prevent minor contusions and abrasions if they happen in the 2 inches the headband covers,” said Lynn Millinoff, the coach of the girls’ team at Buchholz High in Gainesville. “But Florida officials seem to think they’re smarter than the entire rest of the lacrosse-playing world.”

An online petition denouncing the rule garnered more than 3,500 signatures.

It’s not completely unusual for state association’s to establish rules without direction from a national governing body, but it’s not often met with this much resistance.

As the article notes, proponents reference data that suggests girls lacrosse has the fifth-highest rate of concussions in prep sports. The Florida High School Athletic Association oversees 152 girls lacrosse teams, comprising nearly 4,200 student-athletes.

A similar mandate was considered in Maryland and New York but never approved. Massachusetts also once experimented with the requirement.

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