Men's and women's lacrosse are both popular NCAA Division I sports. According to US Lacrosse, the sport's governing body, it's one of the fastest growing sports in the country, with almost 750,000 participants in 2013.
If you've ever witnessed a lacrosse game, you've noticed one big difference between the sexes, boys and men wear helmets, girls and women don't. This is the most visible difference, but there are others as well. If your child or you are new to the sport, you should be aware of them when shopping for lacrosse equipment.
There are no headgear requirements for girls or women who play lacrosse. All contact to the body and head are illegal, so protective headgear isn't currently used. However, female goalies must wear a helmet with a face mask and throat protector.
The debate over whether girls and women should wear helmets is ongoing. Opponents to headgear requirements argue it would encourage more aggressive play, while proponents claim it lessens the threat of any catastrophic head injuries, even with the current rules.
All male players must wear helmets.
Because the women don't wear helmets, protective eyewear is required of every player. While physical contact is minimal, ricocheting balls can still strike girls and women in the face. The eyewear protects against serious eye and face injuries.
At both the male junior and NCAA level, there are no eyewear requirements.
All lacrosse players, regardless of age or sex must wear mouth guards. The upper teeth must be covered by a properly fitting mouthpiece.
Women's lacrosse sticks have shallow pockets, unlike men's sticks with deeper, mesh pockets. The shaft's of women's sticks are generally shorter as well. As a result of these differences, the ball is harder to control, shoot and pass in the women's game. Due to the deeper pockets, the men have more control, so cross-checking to dislodge the ball from an opponent is common. Cross-checking or using the stick to stop or hit an opponent is illegal in women's lacrosse.
Again, because of the more physical nature of the style of play in the men's game, heavy gloves are a requirement. For the women, soft gloves are optional.
Boys and men must wear protective padding. Arm and shoulder pads are to be worn at all times. Only female goalies must wear protective padding. This includes a chest protector and additional padding around the legs, arms and shoulders. There are no requirements for all other female players. Some youth leagues require protective padding for girls.
Before heading out to a lacrosse store, make sure you're aware of these equipment requirements and differences for both sexes. For more information, contact a business such as Breakaway Lacrosse.