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Protective Eyewear in Women’s Lacrosse: Does It Work?

Sponsor

US Lacrosse, Sports Science & Safety Committee

Background

In May 2003, the US Lacrosse Women's Division Board of Governors voted to amend the rules of women's lacrosse to highly recommend the use of protective eyewear meeting current ASTM lacrosse standards for 2004 and to mandate its use at the youth, scholastic and collegiate levels beginning in 2005. The purpose of the rule is to prevent the rare but catastrophic eye injury. The decision followed a comprehensive review of the available medical literature, exhaustive discussions and information-gathering, strong recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Ophthalmology and, ultimately, a recommendation given by the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee.

Furthermore, the recommendation by the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee included suggestions for "continued research, discussion, and continual reassessment of the most effective educational, administrative, and equipment interventions to decrease the risk of head/face/eye injuries in lacrosse."

Head, face, and eye injury rates for high school and collegiate women's lacrosse are currently in press (Lincoln, Hinton, Almquist, Lager, Dick; Am J Sports Med). These data represent injury rates derived from well established surveillance systems during the 2000-03 period, prior to the rule change requiring protective eyewear. As such, they may be used as baseline levels to assess potential changes in injury rates associated with the rule change.

The objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of the protective eyewear mandate on eye injury rates (primary outcome). In addition, we will assess changes in head and facial injury rates, as well as overall severe injury rates, to address potential unintended consequences associated with the rule change.

Study Aims

The aims of this study are to determine:

  • Whether the rate of game eye injuries in women's high school play is lower in the period (2004-2006) following the 2003 protective eyewear mandate.
  • Whether the rates of game head and facial injuries in women's high school play are different in the period (2004-2006) following the 2003 protective eyewear mandate.
  • Whether the rate of severe game injuries (requiring more than 7 lost play days) in women's high school play is different in the period (2004-2006) following the 2003 protective eyewear mandate.

Methods

Study Population & Data Sources

The high school women's lacrosse population will be represented by the 25 public high schools in Fairfax County, VA, during the 2004-07 spring seasons. Data from the 2004 spring season will be included because Fairfax County Public Schools mandated all players to use protective eyewear beginning that season. Injury rates will be compared with those from the same data source during the 2000-2003 seasons.

Analytic Methods

Pre-post mandate injury rates will be evaluated using Poisson regression models. This approach accounts for the athletic-exposures, or total opportunities for injury to occur throughout the season.

Implications

These analyses will provide a methodologically sound, scientific assessment of whether, and to what degree, the protective eyewear mandate has reduced the risk of eye injury in high school and collegiate women's lacrosse and whether the game is safer overall.