Do Lacrosse Players Wear Helmets?

Believe it or not, there was a time when no one wore a helmet when playing lacrosse. Lacrosse was originally more of a speed game with strict contact rules, which didn’t necessitate the need to wear helmets.

Even when the sport first appeared at the Olympics in 1904, no players had helmets.

Though times have changed since those days, let’s take a look at how lacrosse helmet rules evolved over the decades for both men’s and women’s lacrosse, as well as a look into some of the advantages and disadvantages of wearing helmets while playing.

Lacrosse at the 1908 Summer Olympics. Shows Patrick Brennan going for a ground ball.

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Do Lacrosse Players Wear Helmets?

So, to answer the question, do lacrosse players wear helmets? Male lacrosse players must wear helmets, whereas female lacrosse players can choose not to wear a helmet if they don’t want to. This difference is because men’s lacrosse falls under the classification of a full-contact sport, but women’s lacrosse is only a semi-contact sport.

A Brief History of Lacrosse Helmets

In the 1928 Olympics in the Netherlands, lacrosse helmets started to appear as American players wore leather protective helmets. However, the helmets still didn’t have a face shield as they do today.

Players eventually decided against risking getting hit in the face and added the first face mask to their helmets in the 1940s. Players could choose whether to wear helmets, but it wasn’t a requirement until many years later.

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By 2013, it was already mandatory for male players to wear helmets with face masks, but there was still a debate about the need for female players to wear them.

Why Men’s Lacrosse Requires Helmets

Since men’s lacrosse is a full-contact sport, there is a higher chance of getting a head injury through player collisions. Therefore, male players must wear a helmet while playing.

Given that men’s lacrosse allows body checking, there is also other protective gear that they must wear to prevent injury.

male lacrosse player running and wearing helmet

Why Don’t Women’s Lacrosse Players Wear Helmets?

Technically, women’s lacrosse players could wear a helmet if they wanted to since there is no rule against adding more protective gear, however, goalies have to wear a helmet to protect them while guarding.

More recent studies, such as one from Injury Epidemiology in 2015, state that women’s lacrosse players are second only to football players regarding concussion numbers. Studies like this suggest that more regulations should be put into place to protect female players and prevent head injuries. 

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Women’s Lacrosse Players Helmet Rules

Some states in the USA don’t have any rules regarding women’s lacrosse players wearing helmets. In contrast, others and organizations have specifications such as only allowing flexible protective headgear but not hard-shell helmets with face coverings like the helmets men’s lacrosse players wear.

Injury Epidemiology did another study in 2020 about the effectiveness of women’s lacrosse players wearing the same helmets as male players and found that it would reduce the number of concussions by almost half, or 44%.

girl lacrosse player running with ball and stick while wearing goggles

Advantages of Wearing a Helmet

While some of the advantages have already come up in this article, here is a list of some of the pros that come with wearing a helmet while playing lacrosse:

  • Added protection from sticks, balls, falling, and collisions with other players.
  • Drastic decrease in the chance of getting a concussion
  • Allows children to avoid head injuries that can result in issues later in life.

It’s important to note that while a helmet will help limit the chances of head injuries, no helmet can completely protect players from getting injured. It’s also essential to have a helmet that fits properly and is suitable for the sport to get the best protection.

Disadvantages of Wearing a Helmet

It might seem odd to think there are any disadvantages to protecting your head while playing a sport but let’s go through some of the reasons it might not be the best choice to regulate wearing a helmet.

  • It can encourage the players to become more aggressive, allowing checking and possibly resulting in more head injuries.
  • There can be recruitment disadvantages as some states and institutions, like colleges, don’t use helmets and may look past a player that chooses to wear one.

While wearing a helmet can benefit a single player, other factors change once wearing helmets is mandatory in a sport.

Helmets need to fit the player correctly and have the proper testing and certification to prove they work as they should. It depends on your personal experience and what you’re hoping to achieve as a player.

In Summary

Men’s lacrosse players must wear helmets, but women’s lacrosse players do not have to wear one as women’s lacrosse is a semi-contact sport while men’s is a full-contact sport.

Although there are advantages and disadvantages to wearing a helmet, multiple studies suggest that it should be mandatory for female players to wear helmets while playing. 

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