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Helmet Talk: Players, Coaches & Parents

Gary Hanson, the maker of Fehmel and Blomberg's

Gary Hanson, the maker of Fehmel and Blomberg's helmets Credit: John Paraskevas

In Sunday's paper we ran three articles about and relating to helmets and concussions in girls lacrosse. (Here’s a link to the main story if you haven’t read it.) The article was long enough as is, with lots of different voices, but there were plenty of others we couldn’t include. I figure it’s only right to put those out, especially those of the players, coaches and parents – the people most directly involved.

Shoreham-Wading River coach Mary Bergmann 

On helmets: “I think I don't want to see girls wearing helmets. When they did the vote this past fall, the consensus was they didn't want to go to helmets because they'd go to boys’ helmets. People were afraid they'd have a higher concussion rate because the game would get more violent.” “Clare [Blomberg] said she doesn't even notice it. It's so light. The helmets protect them from the stick check. If the vote ever said yes, I'd want the push to be for the helmets these girls wear.”

On Concussions: “It worries me. It seems like every team has one. When I played in high school, you couldn’t get away with pretty much any checking, and it seems like that’s getting more lenient over time. I think it'll have to come down to [officials] being really strict and calling it. Kids are getting more aggressive and the game is evolving - but if it keeps evolving towards the boys’ game, you're going to need the protection. I've played international lacrosse and they don't even wear goggles, and I've never gotten a concussion. Something has to be changed with the concussion rate going up.”

Port Washington coach Raquel Piraino

On helmets in girls lacrosse: “I'm actually against making it mandatory. I think it boils down to coaching and how you teach your kids to play defense. It's a matter of teaching body positioning and how to hold the stick properly. It's about being preventative and teaching the kids the right way to play… But in certain situations, I would completely understand a girl wanting to wear [a helmet]. I think it should be optional. If you've been prone to concussions, why take the risk again? It's a proactive thing.”

Garden City coach Diane Chapman

On helmets: “I understand they’re soft foam helmets, but any type of protective device can change the game. They’re going to be more aggressive and you’ll see more body contact and more injuries other than the head. It would turn into the boys’ game and we’d eventually need full pads… [Boys’] style of play is very different from ours. They don’t even go for the stick half the time, they go for the body. That’s the reason they have to be so protected… I think it should be as it is now, where it’s an option, but I don’t think it should be mandated. Safety is a concern, and the soft foam should be an option for those who want to wear it. That’s fine. But I don’t think it should be forced on every player.”

Do you think they’ll eventually go to helmets? “I hope not, at least for my coaching tenure. But I think that we can only stall for so long. The women’s game is a game of finesse and it keeps changing and changing, and if they take that step, the finesse will be gone.”

Injuries in girls lacrosse: “What about the ACL injuries? It’s not just concussions. Look at the concussion rate in soccer – they go up and head the ball all the time – but there isn’t an outcry for helmets.”

Sayville coach Adam Sznitzekn

On helmets: “I'm against it. I think it'll change the game. I think if coaches, players and refs all do the right things, we won't need it. If players learn to not swing so much, coaches teach them not to, and the refs make the calls correctly, it'll stop kids from going at the head on checks. Between the three groups, they can keep the game without helmets. “ 

Thoughts on Fehmel and Blomberg’s helmets: “I've seen the helmet the Shoreham girl wears. If that's her choice, based on having had concussions in the past, it’s understandable. But when people usually ask for helmets, they mean the ones the boys wear. The ones [the SWR girls are] wearing might prevent some of the injuries. And that might become a thing. I'd have no problem with a girl wanting to wear a soft one.”

Farmingdale coach Shari Campbell

On helmets: “I vacillate. I think we need them because the level of athleticism and the technology of the sticks is changing the game a little and it creates some problems. I know the rules are in place to keep it from happening, but I think it’s going to happen, and I think the helmet [Fehmel] has is what you’re going to see. That’s the kind of helmet I’d have in my brain… I hate to say, but I think it’s going to happen (mandating of helmets). Whether we want to or not. I think it will make the game much more physical and kids won’t care so much if they’re going to injure people if they go for crazy checks. But I think it’s inevitable.”

Judy Kopelman, lacrosse referee and former field hockey coach

“The girls’ game is not the boys’ game. The kids, the coaches, everyone, is trying to work on keeping it safe.”

What if the rules in place remained and the helmets were just a precautionary measure? “No, then it’s a different game. You’ve changed the game. Girls lacrosse is supposed to be graceful, aesthetically pleasing in a way. Put a helmet on and it’s going to become boys lacrosse – there would be more physicality and aggressiveness… I don’t feel it’s an issue. I think there are more injuries in other sports. I don’t think it warrants changing the whole flavor of the game.”

Connie Neilsen, Sayville junior midfielder 

“I’m all for aggressive lacrosse, but I don’t think [helmets are] necessary. I think that if you’re playing girls lacrosse, you should have enough control of yourself to follow the rules. If you do that, you can still be aggressive and not need the helmets.”

Kelsey O’Brien, Massapequa junior attack 

“I say we’d only need helmets if we’re playing boys lacrosse. I don’t think it’s necessary. You don’t see girls get whacked in the head a whole lot. It happens from time to time, but it’s not intentional. It’s usually on a check and they miss. For the most part, we play the game clean and we don’t want to see each other get hurt.”

Mikaela Rix, Garden City senior midfielder 

Concussions: “I’ve never had a concussion, knock on wood. I know a lot of guys who’ve gotten them, but not that many girls I’ve played with.”

Helmets: “If we put helmets on, it’s going to change the game. I think the checking would increase. Because you’re wearing a helmet, everyone’s going to think, ‘Oh, I can hit them and they’re not going to get hurt.’ No way. It definitely should not happen.”

Stephanie Peragallo, Hauppauge junior defender and soccer star

On helmets in girls lacrosse: "I wouldn't wear one, but I think if it helps you and doesn't affect your play, you can wear it. I think if everyone had to wear one, you'd probably have to change the rules a little to become more lenient with checks. But if you've had concussions and it helps, go for it."

As a defender, is anything different about guarding Alexandra Fehmel? "No, not at all. I didn't play her any differently. I play her the same way."

Soccer and girls lacrosse having high concussion rates: "Definitely. It's something you see a lot. I've never had one, but we had a teammate who had one (midfielder Jessica Venturino). She got it in a scrimmage in March. It was probably a mild one because she only missed a couple of weeks and was able to come back pretty quickly."

Taylor Harney, junior attack on Cortland women’s lacrosse team and older sister of Bay Shore’s Kyra Harney

“All the girls I know, have talked to and play with, they don’t want helmets. It would change the game completely and make it so different from what it’s supposed to be. I think if you start with helmets, they’ll get more aggressive, and then you’ll have to go to full pads and nobody wants that.”

“I’ve never had a concussion… The college game is a lot quicker and more physical. You’re allowed to check more in college, so you do tend to get hurt more often… Through my experience, I’ve seen more girls get concussions in college; you see some girls get hit in the head. On my team, we had two girls this past season with concussions.”

Rob Pavinelli, father of Allie Pavinelli, Northport freshman midfielder

“I think all girl sports have become more physical over time. But I think they regulate the game well, with not allowing checking, that I don’t think helmets are necessary as of yet. Should they ever change the rules to allow more checking, then I think it would make sense for helmets to come into play.”

The Shoreham-Wading River girls’ helmets: “If that’s where they want to go, I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t think they need the hard helmet. But if they need to go to a helmet, I think that would be the way to go… Once you get one concussion, you’re much more susceptible to getting another one, so I would agree with those girls wearing them. If you have a history of it, absolutely.”

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