When Women’s Lacrosse Is No Longer Women’s Lacrosse

Last week we read the article NFL Rules Changes: When Football Is No Longer Football by Mark Tracy, which talks about how the NFL is changing the rules of the game to make it safer for players. Examples of these rule changes include banning ball carriers from lowering their helmets into oncoming defenders, and eliminating kickoffs from the Pro Bowl. Although these changes would make play safer, an important question arises on when will the NFL draw the line on what rules should remain permanent and what makes football still considered football. This article correlates to a current issue in women’s lacrosse on safety regulation and possible rule changes.

Aggressive football tackle
Aggressive football tackle

Over the past few years, there have been many debates on whether women’s lacrosse players should wear helmets during the game. Technically, women’s lacrosse is a non-contact sport so women are only required to wear eye protection and mouth guards (excluding goalies). Although they are allowed to stick check, it is very controlled and relatively safe in comparison to men’s lacrosse. In men’s lacrosse, the players are required to wear helmets with facemasks, mouth guards, gloves, and arm, elbow and shoulder pads to protect them during the game. They are also allowed to both stick and body check. Though women’s lacrosse is considered a non-contact sport, it is a very physical game. Concussions and head trauma injuries are present in this sport as they are present in most team sports. Women play with the risk of colliding with other players, getting checked in the head, being struck in the head by a ball, and falling and hitting their head on the ground. So the question is should women be required to wear helmets to prevent from these injuries? And if so, would wearing a helmet ultimately change the game of women’s lacrosse?

Regina George hits a lacrosse player in the head with her stick in the movie Mean Girls
Regina George hits a lacrosse player in the head in the movie Mean Girls 

In the New York Times article A Case Against Helmets in Lacrosse by Alan Schwarz, Margot Putukian, chairwoman of the U.S. Lacrosse safety committee said, “It’s hard to absolutely prove, but what we’ve seen is that behavior can change when athletes feel more protected, especially when it comes to the head and helmets. They tend to put their bodies and heads in danger that they wouldn’t without the protection. And they aren’t as protected as they might think.” Players would end up taking more risks by stepping in front of a shot, going for a more dangerous check and being more physical than they would without a helmet. A helmet might increase the possibility of a concussion or a head injury rather than protecting against it.

Girls on the Bullis lacrosse team wear helmets
Girls on the Bullis lacrosse team wear helmets 

In Reflections on the Revolutions in France, Edmund Burke explains, “Revolutions destroy the fabric of old society.” During the French Revolution the monarchy and old traditions were destroyed and France fell into years of war and violence. Burke argued that the revolution ultimately caused more harm to the country by destroying the old tradition that held it together. In relating Burke’s beliefs to this debate in women’s lacrosse, I believe that Burke would vote against the decision to require helmets. Burke would want to enforce the tradition of women’s lacrosse being a non-contact sport that does not require the use of helmets in order to keep the sport recognizable. Helmets would change the game of women’s lacrosse considerably by increasing contact and risks taken among the players. Burke would support that women’s lacrosse needs to be recognized as “women’s lacrosse” and not something else entirely.

Ultimately I would agree with Edmund Burke’s thinking and say that I do not believe that women should be required to wear helmets in lacrosse. It would change the culture and the nature of the game and destroy the traditions it has acquired as a non-contact/no helmet sport. I think that the requirement of helmets would lead to more equipment being needed in the future due to an increase in physical and dangerous contact between players. If a player wants to wear soft headgear they have the full right to wear it but requiring helmets across all teams would be unjustified and untraditional.

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One thought on “When Women’s Lacrosse Is No Longer Women’s Lacrosse

  1. I fully agree with your point. Forcing the female athletes to wear more protective gear would not only encourage more dangerous contact but also alter the sport in a way that would damage its identity. However, as an athlete myself, I have always chosen safety over success (perhaps this is because my sport is always on the ice rink). Although the statistics of concussions and other injuries are much less than those of male lacrosse, isn’t it worth changing to protective gear in order to save those handful of girls who will end up with an injury which could be potentially life-changing?

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