Lacrosse has become more and more popular in high schools and colleges across America through the last decade, though you probably haven’t noticed because of the lack of mainstream coverage. Still, as teams grow in size and more people invest more energy and interest in the sport, the number of brain injuries attributed to the sport grows.
According to the Florida Hospital Sports Concussion Program, lacrosse ranks third in diagnosed concussions among high school athletes in Florida. The only sports causing more brain injuries for high school males are football and hockey, both of which receive considerably more coverage.
To try to address the growth of brain injuries, Major League Lacrosse teamed up with Sports Legacy Group, a Boston-based brain trauma research organization, working to develop and implement a comprehensive concussion plan before their 2013 season.
MLL Commissioner David Gross, addressing TBI as “a critical issue in sports today” said they hoped to develop the “most aggressive program in professional sports.” Normally a league commissioner talking about creating anything toted with that sentence would worry me, but in this case it is great to see the sport taking the issue very seriously and striving to do even better than their peers to protect their players, even before they had a litigation or scandal-based reason to do so. (Where skeptics like me doubt the motives behind recent NFL rule changes as being more concerned with PR than safety, it is apparent here the main motive is simply player health.)
The league plans to use many of the other major sports leagues’ recommendations for public safety set by SLI in the past, while also combining forward thinking, first-of-its kind caregiver-education. Athletic Business reported a list from SLI medical director Robert Cantu of each of the issues they hope to address, from education and prevention through comprehensive treatment and future research.
High school and college level lacrosse leagues still are not limited by any of these new guidelines, but hopefully they will follow the professional league’s lead. Especially after recent events which have left female players in Maryland at unnecessary risk for TBI. Lawmakers voted down a bill that would have required those female athletes to ear helmets, after arguments from some involved in the sport that “Girls’ lacrosse is a game that, typically, does not involve a lot of contact between the players.”
Men’s lacrosse on the other hand requires helmets for all players, which people attribute to “the increased physical nature and resulting injuries,” as Athletic Business put it. Aside from questioning the possibly sexist nature of any of those remarks, it seems to me that all players should have equal protection from TBI. The data suggests concussions are happening to female athletes despite “not involving a lot of contact.”
We can only hope now that the MLL has taken a strong stance for protecting players from TBI, others will realize the need for similar rules for both mens’ and womens’ lacrosse leagues.