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Lacrosse Headgear Bill Withdrawn

By JULIA MALDONADO, Capital News Service

Delegates Dana Stein and Jon Cardin, Democrats from Baltimore County, withdrew a bill Friday that would have required youth girls lacrosse players to wear headgear after getting strong resistance from leaders of Maryland’s lacrosse community.

Despite the failure to pass the bill, Stein and Cardin said in a press release that the legislation “accomplished an important goal of pushing the conversation to include vital safety concerns and is a win-win for parents and youth athletes.”

The bill was prompted, they said, by parents who were fearful of concussions in girls lacrosse. However, several club coaches said the use of headgear had the potential to be detrimental to a sport that one coach described as being a game of “elegance, grace, and finesse.”

Opponents of helmets argued that headgear would result in more aggressive challenges -- more specifically checks -- due to a false sense of greater protection.

Defenders can challenge an offensive player’s stick if she has the ball and her entire stick is below the shoulder. The check must also be down and away from the body.

Tom Shankle, the owner of Shore Kaos, a girls lacrosse club based out of the Eastern Shore, said Friday the announcement to pull the bill was “great news.”

“(Player safety) is a very important topic that needs to be discussed and worked out with US Lacrosse,” Shankle said. “We’re all about the same goal, but the way we went about it was different.”

While a number of coaches are opposed to requiring headgear in girls lacrosse, one Maryland school has already adopted the practice and will continue it this upcoming season.

Kathleen Lloyd, the director of girls athletics at Bullis School in Potomac, started requiring players to wear soft, rugby-style headgear last season and said the number of concussions decreased from seven in 2011 to three in 2012. She could not say, however, whether the reduction in head injuries could be directly linked to the headgear.

“We did what we thought would be best for our team given the number of concussions we'd been experiencing with our girls,” Lloyd said. “But we had no idea or intention for the headgear to become a broader issue.”

The delegates discussed the idea of headgear with US Lacrosse and its director, Steve Stenersen, and said they would collaborate on safety issues. They also said they are open to working with US Lacrosse to address the need to certify coaches and referees, which many believe will make the game safer.

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