Statement of Purpose Despite the sport’s high incidence rate of concussions, there is substantial push back against the use of helmets in women’s lacrosse. This project examines the social factors influencing the use of protective headgear in the sport at the secondary educational and collegiate levels in the United States and how the recent development of headgear specific to the women’s game has shaped this debate.
Methods/Approach This project follows a narrative analysis methodology to analyze existing written sources following a review of PubMed articles, local newspapers, magazines and school board meeting minutes to obtain case studies of various school districts, institutions and states that have implemented or have removed headgear or helmet mandates for their players. Case studies include the 2015 FHSAA decision to mandate headgear statewide, the 2019–2021 headgear mandate at Bedford High School in Bedford, New Hampshire and the 1985–95 MIAA mandate in Massachusetts. Additionally, twenty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted, recorded and transcribed with a range of key stakeholders (including coaches, researchers, helmet manufacturers, and school board members). Using the program Dedoose, each interview is being coded to identify key themes and patterns across interviews.
Results Recurring themes and arguments throughout written records and discussed across all interviews include autonomy, tradition, risk compensation (better known as the ‘gladiator effect’ in this context), and gender dynamics.
Conclusion Deep-seated beliefs about the nature and identity of girls’ lacrosse have historically shaped the implementation (or lack thereof) of headgear mandates and continue to inform ongoing debates.
Significance Understanding the cultural context of the different arguments and complex social attitudes toward headgear in girls’ lacrosse is critical to informing and successfully implementing policies that protect against injury.
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