National gear safety: Bullis School (MD) senior Sturges happy that entire team is wearing helmets in 2012

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 3/5/12

Carley Sturges said she understands why some believe that girls should not wear helmets because it could change the way the game is played.

Carley Sturges

But the Bullis School senior says she would never play the game of lacrosse again without wearing a helmet and supports the decision made by school officials that is requiring Bullis School players to wear rugby helmets this season.

The decision to have all Bullis school players wear rugby helmets was made in the off-season by school officials and Bulldogs coach Kathleen Lloyd after nine of the players sustained concussions in lacrosse or sports-related incidents.

Sturges, an attack player who recently committed to Division III Roanoke College, missed two months of the 2011 season after being whacked in the temple by a stick during a winter tournament. After that she decided to wear a rugby helmet.

“I got hit going for a groundball,” Sturges said. “The girl knocked my goggles off and I completely wiped out. I kept on playing, but I was dazed and I knew something was wrong.”

Since Bullis School does baseline testing, it was easy to determine that Sturges had sustained a concussion. She returned to the field in late march during the spring season but only felt comfortable while wearing a rugby helmet recommended by school trainers.

“I knew that wearing a helmet cannot completely protect me,” she said. “I stopped wearing it after a few weeks back from my concussion and I found that I wasn’t playing the same way I was with the helmet on because I was very hesitant and scared of getting checked in the head again.

“The helmet doesn’t hinder my play at all,” she said. “If anything it helped me build my confidence back up because it protected my head.

“I don’t really think about playing lacrosse without my helmet any more. It’s a part of me now.

Sturges admits that not all the girls on her team wanted to wear helmets. After wearing the helmets for preseason practice and several scrimmages, though, coach Katherine Lloyd reported that the girls have adjusted fine to the new equipment.

“I know it won’t prevent anything from happening, but it can help,” Sturges said. “A lot of people (like the girls on my lacrosse team at school) hated the idea of having to wear a rugby helmet.

“They don’t want to look stupid, but I would rather look stupid than get another concussion and never be able to play the sport I love again.”

The Navy blue helmets were distributed when practice began a week ago and Bullis opens its season Tuesday when it hosts Paul VI (Va.) at 5:30 p.m.

“When I found out (we would all be wearing them) I was really surprised,” Sturges said. “I thought I would be the only one wearing a helmet. At the same time, I felt kind of relieved because it’s annoying walking on the field having people stare at you.

“Now everyone will be staring at all of us.”

Last year two girls from Long Island’s Shoreham-Wading River, Alex Fehmel and Clare Blomberg, began using helmets because they suffered concussions.

As a result of the increased number of concussions and the increased media attention concussions have received at the high school, college and pro levels, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a new law that will increase protections for student-athletes who suffer concussions, a decision supported by Long Island legislators.

The new law requires any student who is believed to have suffered a concussion to be immediately removed from athletic activities and banned from returning until he or she is symptom-free for at least 24 hours and cleared by a physician.

Also, the law mandated that\s coaches, teachers and other school personnel are to receive training about concussion symptoms. The measure became effective July 1.
Sturges said that girls should have the right to wear more protection.

“I think that helmets are a good idea because of the amount of girls that are getting concussions from being checked in the head these days due to how competitive and aggressive the sport has become,” she said. “We need to realize that we need to protect our heads, and if refs aren’t going to be consistent with how they call the games, then you need take the matters into your own hands.

“We need to be more aware of what can happen when you swing at someone’s head trying to check their stick or if someone swings at your head as well.

“But at the same time I feel like if everyone has to begin wearing helmets than the aggressiveness of the game will be taken to a whole new level because some might feel as though they can’t get hurt because they are wearing a helmet, and that you can’t hurt anyone else because they are wearing a helmet as well.

“I know this topic is really controversial right now with girls’ lacrosse, and I would rather protect myself because you never know what can happen.”

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