The future is at hand for Rob Stolker, founder of Hummingbird Helmets.
He foresees when every girl and woman playing lacrosse wears a protective helmet. And it's not too far away.
“Three years from now every girl in the country will be wearing them,” he told Helmet Tracker from his New Jersey offices.
“I’ve maybe sold 100 in New Jersey, but people all across the lacrosse nation are talking about it. There are at least 20 high schools now wearing them.”
Hummingbird just started manufacturing the helmets this year after a three-year development process.
Florida officials have mandated helmets for high school girls’ lacrosse starting in 2018. And more states will follow suit, Stolker says.
“Connecticut and Ohio are talking about it,” he says. “They may be next.”
Others wonder. Will the NCAA or any other body mandate lacrosse helmets for girls and women?
For now, in most places, the decision to outfit girls and women lacrosse players with helmets is one the players, their parents, and coaches make. Cheryl Woodward and her daughter Ellie made that decision recently.
“Ellie received a concussion last year in practice. It was a follow-through with a stick to the head,” says Woodward. Ellie, a rising Junior, plays varsity lacrosse for Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, Virginia. But her parents decided after the hit to take her out for the last three weeks of the 2016 season. After a hard fall snowboarding early in 2017, while wearing a helmet, the family decided to put a lid on it and buy Ellie a lacrosse helmet.
“She had absolutely no qualms when we told her we were going to buy a helmet,” Woodward said.
Ellie, who has played lacrosse since elementary school, and her teammates accepted the helmet.
“Her best friend, the goalie, also wears a helmet. The girls on the field will ask her about it, and she makes up bizarre stories about why she wears it.”
More than often, Ellie and her goalie friend are often the only ones on the field wearing a helmet, but Woodward sees that changing. “At this stage, it’s an individual choice. I think it’s a good idea, but I would not push for it to be mandatory at this point,” she says.
Changing the game?
The argument against mandating helmets for female lacrosse players seems to settle upon this: It will change the game—make it more violent.
“Girls play under these rules that are supposed to make it a non-contact sport,” says Hummingbird’s Stolker. “The old school mentality says that putting a helmet on will make the game more physical—that it will turn into the boys’ game.”
But he sees a growing advocacy for the helmets. “There is a growing understanding about head trauma and the repercussions of concussions,” Stolker says. He says more Athletic Directors are looking into the issue with concerns not only about injury and concussions but the liability.
Helmet Tracker contacted Cascade, the primary manufacturer of lacrosse helmets who produces the Women's LX. Representatives there declined to comment for this story.
Woodward says most contact in girl's lacrosse is incidental, but it still happens. She told Helmet Tracker that appropriate refereeing would prevent physical incidents. But appropriate refereeing requires trained, seasoned referees. “We don’t have enough refs,” she says. “It’s the fastest growing sport in the country. Finding qualified refs is tough.”
Growth in WLAX
Indeed, women’s lacrosse is growing.
“It’s growing faster at the collegiate level,” said Brian Logue, Director of Communications at US Lacrosse.
He called helmets for female lacrosse players a “hot button issue” and said he could not predict the future of rules and standards. “There is a definite market for the helmets. It could become a mandate in other places; it could remain optional.”
Helmet Tracker is not affiliated with any lacrosse helmet manufacturer.