MedStar Health Researchers Investigate the Effects of Headgear in High School Girls’ Lacrosse

A collaborative investigation was undertaken to evaluate potential differences in rates, extent, and game-play characteristics of impacts among players with and without headgear during high-school girl’s lacrosse competition. “The Effects of Headgear in High School Girls’ Lacrosse” was published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. The research was completed in collaboration with the Sports Medicine Assessment, Research & Testing (SMART) Laboratory at George Mason University in Manassas, VA.

The goals of this study were to determine whether differences in the rates and magnitudes of impacts to the head and other areas of the body occurred in players with and without headgear during competition, along with determine if the distribution of impact mechanisms and penalties called for impacts were different with the introduction of headgear. With the growing popularity of girls’ lacrosse among high schools in the US, the reporting of head injuries has also increased. Recent studies have incorporated sensor technology and video surveillance to characterize head impacts and head injuries.

The study included a cohort of 49 girls from a single high school lacrosse team during the 2016 season (no headgear; 18 games) and 2017 (headgear; 15 games). In 2017, a performance standard (ASTM F3137) for girls’ lacrosse headgear became commercially available. Each participant was assigned a wearable sensor affixed behind their ear. All game-related impacts recorded by the sensors were verified on video. Data was collected to describe game-play characteristics among players with and without headgear.

The study recorded 649 sensor-instrumented player-games and 204 impacts ≥20g were verified as game-related impacts using video analysis. The results show that most impacts were imparted to the player’s body (74.5%), rather than to the player’s head (25.5%). Impact rates per player-game did not vary between the no headgear and headgear conditions. No game-related concussions were reported during this study.

The research team concluded that lacrosse headgear use was associated with a reduction in the magnitude of overall impacts but not a significant change in the rate of impacts, how they occur, or how penalties were administered for impacts sustained during competition. Further research is needed with a larger sample and different levels of play to evaluate the consequences of headgear use in girls’ lacrosse.

The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine., 2020. DOI: 10.1177/2325967120969685