Dr. Trish Kelshaw, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire, has been involved in three research studies, funded in part by USA Lacrosse, to measure attitudes about women’s headgear among players, coaches, and officials. She presented her findings in a recent webinar hosted by USA Lacrosse.
The first, and smallest, of her three studies was a pilot study with high school players from one team in Virginia. Players were surveyed both before and after one season of headgear use (pre and post), with the following findings from the responses:
● Athletes felt largely ambivalent towards headgear
● Slightly more than half of the players (56%) stated that wearing headgear did not change their attitudes toward safety or their confidence when playing
● All of the participants felt “targeted” by opposing players when wearing headgear
● The majority of the players (78%) stated they would not wear headgear again unless the sport allowed for more contact
The second study, similar in design to the pilot, was expanded to a nationwide cohort of almost 300 high school players from states that require headgear use (Florida) and states that do not. Findings showed no significant differences between the two groups in their attitudes toward headgear. In each case, both headgear users and non-users were closely aligned in their responses to the following four statements:
● Headgear prevents me from getting a concussion (slightly agree)
● Headgear changes the way I play (slightly agree)
● I feel safer with headgear (neutral – neither agree or disagree)
● I am more aggressive toward my opponent (slightly agree)
The third study targeted collegiate athletes, coaches, and officials. Among these three stakeholder groups, the players were more likely than coaches and officials to agree that headgear should be part of the sport, but were also more concerned about performance limitations and aesthetics. Nearly all stakeholders in the collegiate survey felt that headgear use should remain optional.
“Some important overall findings from all three of these studies are that, number one, perceptions of headgear varied among all stakeholders,” Kelshaw said. “Also, increased aggression subsequent to headgear use remains a concern, and most stakeholders support optional headgear use rather than a mandate at this time.”
Kelshaw’s full presentation, followed by a discussion with three high school and college coaches, moderated by USA Lacrosse’s Caitlin Kelley, can be seen below.