BOSTON (CBS) – Head injuries are a growing concern in youth sports. So why don’t girls who play lacrosse wear helmets just like the boys?

Brahm from Needham Declared His Curiosity about that, adding: “Doesn’t it make sense for girls to protect their heads the same way boys do?”

If you think the answer is an easy “yes,” you may be surprised to find out what we discovered.

Watch the girls play then watch the boys play and it’s like night and day. The boys are padded up, including helmets with facemasks, the girls simply have eye protection and mouth guards. “My concern is concussion,” says Christine Fitch.

Her older daughter suffered a concussion when she played high school lacrosse. “As a sophomore she was hit directly on top of the head with a stick and as a result had a concussion,” says Fitch.

That happens a lot. A study by the Center for Injury Research finds that girls lacrosse players had the highest concussion rate among girls’ sports over the past two years.

So it seems like an easy one — have the girls wear helmets. However, in this case, what seems obvious…isn’t. “Helmets will not decrease the risk of concussion. In fact, they’ll probably increase it a little bit,” says Dr. William Meehan. He’s the director of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Children’s Hospital Boston.

He says concussions aren’t caused by an impact to the brain. “It’s due to a rapid spinning or rotational acceleration to the brain. So if you put a helmet on and somebody hits you in the jaw of the face mask, your head is going to spin, the helmet is going to spin with it, but you’re not going to reduce the risk of that rotation,” says Dr. Meehan.

Even if helmets don’t prevent concussions, they do protect against catastrophic head injuries. So why not require the girls to wear helmets for that reason?

Well, again, it’s not so simple because it’s extremely rare for female lacrosse players to sustain the kinds of injuries helmets protect against. “In the medical literature I didn’t see one case of catastrophic brain injury to a woman,” says Dr. Meehan.

Part of the reason for that is that the girls and boys games are very different.

The boys is a contact sport, the girls isn’t. It’s against the rules for girls to check like the boys and they are penalized if they raise their sticks too high or hit another player.

In addition, some people are concerned that if girls wear helmets, the level of aggressiveness will go up actually leading to more concussions. That’s why Dr. Meehan doesn’t advocate helmets for the girls. “Personally I think the price of the increased number of concussions would be too much to pay,” he says.

Not every sports medicine expert agrees that girls don’t need helmets for lacrosse. They argue that even if the rules don’t allow head hits, it still happens. In the meantime, parents are relying on coaches and refs to keep the girls’ games safe.

We want to know what you’re curious about. Go to Declare Your Curiosity and tell us.

Reported By: David Wade, WBZ-TV


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