For more than a decade, Dawn Comstock has studied sports injuries among high school athletes, collecting data from hundreds of high schools across the country.
She says after going over all the numbers, something began to stand out about men and women’s lacrosse.
“We really just set out to ask the question, "how much of the concussions of girls lacrosse could be directly attributed to the fact that they are prohibited from wearing the hard shell helmet with the full facemask that’s required in boys lacrosse?" said Comstock.
Ann Kitt Carpenetti from US Lacrosse says the differences create almost a different game with different issues.
“The game rules are different, the culture is different, we do recognize that injuries do occur in both games," said Carpenetti.
There’s no body checking, basically a running shove, in women’s lacrosse like there is in the men’s game. Because of that rule, women's lacrosse players don't wear helmets.
But Comstock and fellow professor Sarah Fields found that rule isn't keeping female players from getting hurt.
“What we found was 72.7% of all of the concussions among girls high school lacrosse players resulted from being struck by a stick or a ball," said Comstock.
Almost three quarters of concussions among women's players have nothing to do with player-to-player contact.
The researchers estimated that by requiring them to wear helmets, they could reduce the total concussions in the sport by 45%
“61.5% of the concussions that resulted from being hit by the stick or the ball in girls lacrosse players could have been prevented if they had been wearing the same helmet the hard shell helmet with the full facemask that boys lacrosse players are required to wear,” said Comstock.
US Lacrosse says it has a helmet designed for women’s lacrosse and is testing it in Florida
“In terms of the rate of head injuries caused by stick and ball, some concussive, some other, we agree it was notable. And that’s why we led the development of the ASTM head gear back in 2008,” said Carpenetti.
The helmet is softer and has less coverage than the male helmet, and right now it’s optional in all states except Florida. Depending on the results of an ongoing study of it’s effectiveness it could be rolled out across the country.
But for Fields and Comstock, that rollout is inching along at a painful rate.
"Sport culture, loves to move at a glacial pace, I mean we're still arguing about designated hitters in baseball. So we don't like change in sport and we pretend like change can't happen in sport," said Sarah Fields, CU Denver.
Change Comstock and Fields say would help prevent nearly half the concussions in women’s lacrosse.