Jenna Abelli is the Category Manager for Women's Lacrosse at Cascade, which is a leading helmet and goggle manufacturer in the sport of lacrosse. Jenna was a collegiate lacrosse player at Tufts University before working on the launch of the new Cascade LX women's helmet (as seen in the picture above). The video below describes what went into the design of the LX helmet.
In episode 56, Jenna and I first talk about her lacrosse career and any injuries she suffered. Fortunately, Jenna was able to avoid any major injuries, but she did witness many of her teammates sustain injuries. In the sport of women's lacrosse most head injuries come from accidental contact with the ball or stick after an errand shot, pass or stick check. Since 2002, equipment guidelines in women's lacrosse require the use of goggles, but helmets that meet ASTM Standards are still an optional piece of equipment. Goggles were first introduced to prevent orbital fractures. With girls getting bigger, stronger and faster in the era of sports specialization and with newly added rule changes, these accidental contacts have become more severe in the women's game. The LX helmet was designed to more adequately equip athletes in the evolving game.
Some of the testing necessary to meet the ASTM Standards includes a drop test, 45 mph stick check test, 60 mph ball shot test and a deformation test. All these tests are designed to match potential forces athletes would experience during a game. The deformation test is important because this ensures the LX will not injure another athlete who chooses not to wear a helmet because as mentioned previously, it is an optional piece of equipment in most areas of the country and world. It is however mandatory in the state of Florida. This decision is left up to the state high school athletic associations. You can find your state's athletic association here.
Key features of the LX:
The LX is an integrated goggle system, meaning goggle and helmet are all one piece. This relieves the facial pressure experienced by a separate goggle.
The outer shell is protective against impact, but soft to the touch to keep unprotected players safe.
A rear adjustable strap allows for varying head shapes and sizes. This feature also allows for multiple hair styles.
Large air vents to keep athletes cool.
The ability to add team customization to the head gear.
In the sport of American football, the evolving helmet has been a major topic of discussion. This is especially true in regard to the helmet being used as a weapon because players find a false sense of security in the improved technology. During the interview, I asked what Jenna's thoughts were on this issue with the introduction of the LX helmet to women's lacrosse. Jenna and her team at Cascade have conducted a tremendous amount of field testing and although she says players look more confident in double team situations, women's lacrosse is a non-contact sport by nature so the football comparison is unjustified. With that being said, it should also be noted that this helmet is not designed to protect against the same impacts seen in football and men's lacrosse.
At one point in our discussion, Jenna compared the acceptance of ski/snowboard helmets (slight foreshadowing to next week's episode with pro snowboarder, Kevin Pearce) and what she foresees happening with the adoption of the LX helmet in women's lacrosse. I will put it bluntly. At first people are resistant because they want to be "COOL" or "TOUGH" , but eventually people realize they are being a DUMBASS by not protecting the most important organ in their body, which is your brain. Besides, what athlete doesn't like more gear?! At a price of $149.99 this additional piece of equipment, which could possibly save your life, should not be a barrier to participation. How much is your brain or your child's brain worth to you? My hope is that the NCAA mandates the use of these helmets because that will make them "COOL" to the rising stars in the sport.