Protective goggles give players a new outlook

Lacrosse: Mandated eyewear takes a while to get used to, but is worth the preventative effort.

Girls Lacrosse

High School Sports

March 19, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

When it comes to the protective eyewear required in girls lacrosse this season, Hereford's Katie Braid sees things a lot differently than most of her peers.

A year ago, she suffered exactly the kind of eye injury the goggles are designed to protect against.

During an intrasquad scrimmage, Braid made a cut through the arc just as a teammate fired off a shot. The ball hit Braid on the right side of her face next to her eye.

"I remember falling on the ground and a couple seconds later, horrendous pain," said Braid, now a senior. "I don't remember anything after that until I woke up the next morning."

Braid was airlifted to Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a broken nose and multiple fractures of her cheek and the bones around her eye socket. A few days later, she had surgery to repair the damage and insert a plastic mesh plate to hold her eye in place, she said.

Today, Braid is back on the field. Although she had double vision for a while, she said, she has no lingering physical effects from the injury.

She does, however, notice a few lingering psychological effects.

"Sometimes I have flashbacks when the ball is coming. I just cringe. I see it happening again."

She said her doctor told her she could not play lacrosse without goggles, but that didn't matter, because protective eyewear is now required by the National Federation of State High School Associations. That includes all public school teams in Maryland.

US Lacrosse will mandate the eyewear for all girls playing in the United States beginning in 2005.

However, on the high school level, local private and parochial schools also adopted the goggles this season. They would have to wear them for games at public schools anyway.

"Once the Maryland state public schools came out and said, `We're wearing it,' it was a no-brainer," said St. Paul's coach Jim Stromberg. "Besides, I think, when someone says something is strongly recommended, you should heed that advice."

While coaches understand the safety issue, many were reluctant to adopt goggles, fearing they might be the first step toward helmets.

"I don't want the game to get any more physical," said Mount Hebron coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland. "If coaches do their jobs and officials call the game safely, it won't go to that."

While Braid's injury is extremely rare, said Erin Millon, US Lacrosse women's division director, it is the kind of injury that sparked the mandate for eyewear.

She said all players should be sure their eyewear meets the standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. The specific standards are labeled F803-03.

While most programs have been able to get enough goggles, some coaches said they have not. Century coach Rose Pentz said her order wasn't expected to be in until close to the first play date.

"I was in a panic just before practice started, but all the girls were able to get them and I was able to get some more on loan," said Pentz.

Millon said that US Lacrosse anticipated a shortage this season with most of the high school and college teams across the country needing eyewear.

"The reason we held off our mandate until 2005 was to give manufacturers time," said Millon. "We knew the demand would be incredible and the products weren't out there. They weren't being made for mass quantities of girls lacrosse players."

For the players, getting used to the goggles has not taken long.

"I don't see it as that big of a deal," said Bryn Mawr coach Wendy Kridel. "It's not a factor that's affecting play."

Severna Park's Bridget Zingler said she was surprised at how fast she got used to the goggles, but that the narrower field of vision makes a big difference.

"It's probably most noticeable playing defense," said Zingler. "It really restricts your peripheral vision, so your head has to be on a pivot constantly in order to watch your girl and the ball."

Hereford coach Anne Ensor said she was never in favor of goggles until Braid's injury. "That kind of changes your perspective on the whole thing."

Braid certainly agrees.

"They're probably the best things," said Braid. "You don't know how much it hurts until it happens to you. Some of the girls say, `It blocks my vision,' but, trust me, it's better than risking an injury like mine."

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