Hard Knocks: Some LI schools concerned over use of head gear by girls lacrosse teams

Posted: Mar 31, 2017 08:44 AM Updated: Mar 31, 2017 08:44 AM

Some girls lacrosse teams have a new look this season and it's causing concerns at schools across Long Island.

Helmets are now becoming part of the game. And not everyone thinks it's a good thing.

News 12 Long Island's sports director Kevin Maher and Newsday took a look at the issues in the Hard Knocks series.

The William Floyd Colonials are going "all in" on girls lacrosse helmets. This season the school bought helmets for all of their teams, middle school to varsity, and the Colonials are wearing them in every game.  

"It's hard to get used to because your peripheral vision is cut off, so we're playing to the best of our ability right now," says player Lexi Willets.

William Floyd is one of seven Long Island schools making helmets mandatory. This comes after U.S. Lacrosse, which governs the sport nationwide, announced in August it was making helmets optional at all levels of the game. So teams can choose whether to wear them or not.

Mount Sinai coach Al Bertalone has been treading uncharted waters since January - when his players started testing their helmets.

"If they get involved in a game where the sticks are flying, they'll put them on. I'm hoping eventually the kids just wear them," says Bertalone.

Senior Hailey Dillon says her helmet doesn't fit well and affects her vision too. She doesn't want to wear one, despite suffering two concussions. 

According to research compiled by Newsday, Dillon was one of 65 girls lacrosse players on Long Island to suffer a concussion last season. That's one concussion for every 68 players. But girls soccer and basketball players had higher rates of concussions.

"If you want to mandate the helmets OK. But don't tell me it's because of outrageous concussions. Because I don't really believe that's really the problem," says Farmingdale coach Tracy Weiner.

That's why the 25-year coach is not making the Dalers wear them, even though the school bought helmets for every high school and junior high player.

In fact, she believes putting girls in helmets will make the game more aggressive.

The girls helmets are not like the hard shells the boys wear. They're lighter and bendable. In fact some people aren't even calling them helmets. They prefer to call them head gear. 

And then there's, what one athletic director called, the biggest safety concern of all.

"It sets up another safety level when you have kids who are wearing these as opposed to kids that aren't," says Smithtown athletic director Pat Smith.

Smith has already dealt with that situation. At first he made helmets mandatory for his teams. But he changed his mind just this week when his coaches complained their players were being hit more while wearing helmets - especially by teams not wearing them.

"That's part of the problem. It's left up to each school and that's the issue everyone is facing," says Smith.

But as much as some players and coaches are fighting against the use of helmets, they admit, it's a battle they won't win.

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