Concussion awareness is a hot-button topic in football these days, but in one New Jersey town, the growing measures to ensure player safety are spilling over into other sports as well.
According to NJ.com, schools in Princeton will become the first in the state to require that athletes playing soccer, girls lacrosse or field hockey wear protective headgear during games. The mandate will be placed only on sixth graders this fall but will eventually apply to all athletes through grade 12.
“We’re very aware that for players in all sports there’s a risk of head injuries and we’re just trying to do whatever we can to prevent them,” Timothy Quinn, president of the Princeton school board, told the site.
Unlike a football helmet, the helmets used by Princeton schools will be soft and will cover the temples, forehead and top of the head, and the school board will foot the bill for the lids, which can cost up to $70 each.
However, even though the cost of the new gear won’t be passed on to students, not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea.
Barbara Greiger-Parker, the president of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, told NJ.com that she wasn’t aware of any scientific studies that prove that these particular helmets actually reduce concussion risk, and Robb Rehberg, the athletic trainer at the Center for Concussion Care in Summit, N.J., expressed concern that the new headgear might encourage more physicality on the field.
“Adding headgear could potentially give athletes a false sense of protection that would make them play more aggressively,” Rehberg told NJ.com.
Change is rarely popular among the establishment, especially when it comes to sports and, more particularly, player safety. But given how much we’ve learned in recent years about the long-term effects of brain injuries, I can’t fathom a case where looking after the well-being of athletes is ever a bad thing.
That said, the initiative in Princeton is already getting some pushback, and I suspect the mob of detractors more concerned with glamour than practicality will only grow as the new rule expands to older students.
Now, for some links:
• New Mexico football fans raised $2,000 for a New Mexico State fan/Iraq War veteran who should have won the money in a contest at an NMSU game.