Syracuse women’s lacrosse attack Emily Hawryschuk is very familiar with the delayed reminders of the toll of her sport.
She’ll often take a stick or shot to the head and not fully feel it until the next day.
“I think that happens a lot, and before I just didn’t even realize it until the next day, you wake up, and, ‘Oh, my head hurts,”’ she said.
That problem is about to be significantly reduced.
Virtually every member of the Orange, as well as players on several other teams, have decided to wear protective head gear this season. The NCAA permitted such gear last season, but the idea didn’t catch on very quickly. Orange coach Gary Gait said the team didn’t have any in stock and none of his players inquired about getting one.
This preseason, however, virtually the entire squad has been practicing with them.
“It’s still light, so it’s not like it’s too much going on. I thought, at first, it might block your views. But it’s not bad at all,” said SU attack Riley Donahue.
“I’ve just always been used to wearing goggles, so I just sort of stuck with that freshman year,” Hawryschuk said. “Now we’ve got new ones, I wanted to try it out. So I tried it, and I loved it. I didn’t see anything really negative about it that would change my mind and make me put goggles back on.”
While helmet use remains optional, for Hawryschuk and her teammates it’s just a matter of common sense. Players are getting bigger, faster and stronger and even incidental contact can cause bruises and concussions.
“The hits are harder in college. Just having something for extra protection on your head, just to absorb it, I think really helps,” Hawryschuk said.
The extent to which the safety measure spreads throughout the sport remains unclear. Some coaches are concerned that helmets will increase physicality.
“As soon as you put helmets on, you’re going to end up going to shoulder pads because the kids hit harder,” said Karin Corbett, women’s lacrosse coach at the University of Pennsylvania, to the New York Times. “They also will start to lead with their heads because they feel protected, and that causes more injuries.
“We’ll become a more physical sport and a very different looking sport than we are today.”
But Gait is a proponent of helmet use and didn’t think they will create any additional problems.
“I have not seen any change in play at all. The face is still open on those helmets,” he said. “Certainly, you shy away when you’re getting the sticks in the bodies. You still see people wanting to protect their face. I think that’s a natural reaction. The rules haven’t changed. The game stayed the same.”