ACC Sports Sciences Feature: Eye Protection in Women's Lacrosse
March 1, 2005
Sandy Worth, ATC and Andrea Roth, ATC
Women's lacrosse is typically thought to be a finesse game, largely free of the full force contact that dominates its male counterpart. Because of the lower incidence of contact in the women's game, traumatic injuries about the head and face while less likely to occur, are not completely unheard of. Stick checking and limited body contact have always been a part of the sport and wearing eye protection has always been allowed. In May 2003, the US Lacrosse Women's Division Board of Governors voted to "highly recommend the use of protective eyewear for all participants" for the 2004 season with a mandate for use by all for the 2005 season.
The safety of all participants is the number one concern for sport governing bodies and their rule makers. Catastrophic injury concerns surely are addressed at each and every meeting. And so it was with women's lacrosse. Catastrophic eye injury, while rare in women's lacrosse, was the impetus and the reason for implementing the rule for mandatory eye protection for all players - youth through adult. If you are playing women's lacrosse you must wear eye protection. Beginning 1 January 2005, all field players must properly wear eye protection that meets ASTM Standard Specification F803 for Women's Lacrosse for the appropriate level of play (youth or adult).1
While the face is the site of many kinds of traumatic sport injuries, including eye injury, only 1% of all sports injuries reported are eye injuries.2 The NCAA reports, referencing the injury surveillance system, that of the eye injuries that are reported in women's lacrosse, 86% of these injuries are caused by the ball and 14% are caused by the stick.
The most common head/facial injuries seen in women's lacrosse are contusions about the face and orbit, creating the typical "black eye". Lacerations of the skin surrounding the eyes, nose, and zygomatic arch (cheek) are commonly seen as a result of a direct blow from either a stick check or the ball. Orbital fractures or "blowout fractures", while much less common, are the result of a sudden increase in orbital pressure due to a direct blow to the eye. The defining sign of an orbital floor fracture is the inability of the athlete to look up because of the displaced fragments of bone where muscle attachments for eye movement take place. More often than not, surgical intervention is required to repair this damage and preserve normal eye function.3
Prior to the rule change mandating eyewear, only a handful of protective devices had been in place and were typically only used following a traumatic injury, such as an orbital fracture. Beginning with the 2004 season and continuing now into 2005 a significant number of new products have come onto the market. In order for any protective device to meet the ASTM standard for women's lacrosse, products must undergo testing at a facility capable of conducting impact testing. A lacrosse ball is propelled at the goggle as it sits on a human head form and the devices are checked to see if they make contact with the eye or for breakage. The current standard, as developed by the ASTM, states that youth devices must withstand a ball propelled up to 45 mph, while adult devices must withstand up to 60 mph. US Lacrosse has taken an additional step and requires any manufacturer to have their product tested at a PECC approved testing facility and supply the test results to USL before the product will be considered legal for women's lacrosse play. Products meeting this requirement can be found on the US Lacrosse web site (www.uslacrosse.org).
Examples of some of the protective devices that have undergone testing and been deemed to be in full compliance with the ASTM standards include the following by manufacturer:
Brine Concept (available in small, medium and large sizes) and is compliant with both the adult and youth standard:
Cascade Iris and Iris mini; compliant with both standards:
deBeer Vista; compliant with both standards:
STX 4-sight (medium and large sizes); compliant with both standards:
Warrior Theia (goggle: youth only; wire mask: compliant with both standards
These are just some of the products that are on the market. Because head sizes differ and the shape and size of faces differ, eyewear should be tried on before purchase to be sure of the fit. Teams may also want to make their eyewear selection from more than one manufacturer for the above reasons. The wire mesh or cage protection is popular with the vast majority of players, though some do prefer the polycarbonate or "plastic" models. Additionally, there are also issues associated with players who must use glasses wearing protective eyewear over their glasses. While there is nothing in the rules to prevent this, some of the eyewear products are not designed to be worn over glasses. Players should be aware of the potential dangers of wearing or using equipment in a manner for which it was not designed. Check out the options and make an informed purchase.
1 US Lacrosse Women's Division. 2005 ed. Official Rules for Girls and Women's Lacrosse. Baltimore: USL.
2 Pashby RC, Pashby, TJ: "Ocular injuries.", In Welsh PR, Shepard, RJ eds: Current therapy in sports medicine, 1985-86, Philadelphia, 1985, BC Decker.
3 Schultz, S.J., Houghlum, P.A., and Perrin, D.H. 2000. Assessment of Athletic Injuries. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.