Brown conducts helmet study for girls lacrosse

Joseph "Trey" Crisco, Henry Frederick Lippitt Professor of Orthopaedic Research and Director of the Bioengineering Lab, who has done pioneering research with concussions and football helmets is now studying girl's and women's lacrosse, which does not require helmets. 

Crash-test dummies subjected to a barrage of sticks to the head may help settle the debate over whether helmets should be required in girl's lacrosse.

There has been increased concern over concussions in a sport that prohibits the use of hard helmets, while soft headgear in the girls' game is allowed. Hard helmets are required in the men's version of the game.

Brown University in Rhode Island will conduct a study during the third week of July to try to determine whether helmets will help protect girls from concussions caused by stick-to-head contact, and if so, what type.

"Right now, there is no standard for head protection in the women's game," said Ann Kitt Carpenetti, the managing director of game administration for US Lacrosse, the sport's governing body. "There is an allowance in our rules for soft headgear, but no testing has been done and little or no research."

The issue of requiring helmets in girl's lacrosse, at the high school and college levels, remains a hot-button issue. Many of the players and coaches fear that mandatory helmet use, especially of the hard-shell variety, would make their sport too physical and more like the boys game. But some in the medical profession are fearful of the danger of concussions and are in favor of required helmet use.

Females use more 'finesse'

"The girls' sport was meant to be a finesse sport, an athletic sport, and not a power sport or a brute-force sport," said Shoreham-Wading River coach Mary Ann Bergmann. "US Lacrosse and the referees' associations need to come together and figure out what's best for the sport."

Long Island, which has about 2,000 girls playing lacrosse on 104 high school teams, was the focus of the debate last spring, when Alexandra Fehmel, a star player on Bergmann's team, began playing with a soft helmet designed by a family friend. Before wearing the soft helmet, Fehmel had suffered two concussions playing lacrosse.

Fehmel, whose team won the Class C state championship in June, said wearing the soft helmet "has definitely helped me with my confidence. It protects me from stick-to-head injuries and any concussion I might get from that. I'm not scared to go to goal anymore. I'm not afraid to be aggressive."

Could the results of this summer's testing be the first step toward requiring helmets?

"I would not say that helmet use is inevitable. I would say that what's inevitable is that there will be a standard, hopefully by next year," said Carpenetti.

She said that US Lacrosse, in conjunction with the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, which established national standards for football and baseball helmets, has funded the research project at Brown.

Project director Joseph "Trey" Crisco, a professor of orthopedics at Brown, said his study's goal "is to try to understand what head accelerations girls receive during games. How hard is the head being impacted by ball or stick?"

He said he had hoped to use sensors to measure that impact, but there was no place to effectively attach the sensors on players' heads.

"So we decided to use dummies, like they use in car crash simulations," Crisco said. "We have a model and we will have girls lacrosse players from the [Rhode Island] area come into our lab and whack away from different angles. They'll be whacking on the top of the 'head' and the side of the 'head.' They'll use the tip, the shaft and the middle of the stick so we can determine the severity of stick checks."

Crisco noted that the head forms are gender-neutral, "but they do have sizes, and we're using the smaller size."

Crisco said that once the data is compiled, "it will help US Lacrosse determine the type of helmets or whether there is even a need for them."

Crisco said results will require four to six weeks to be analyzed, and he estimates it will take several months before the report is ready.

One player's decision

For Fehmel, the question of requiring helmets has already been answered. She said she favors requiring soft helmets but not hard ones.

"Hard helmets would hurt players even more, just from bumping into each other," she said.

Bergmann, who currently is playing lacrosse in Europe where no headgear is worn, said she isn't sure where she stands on the issue of helmets.

"If you give everyone helmets, is the game going to become more aggressive?" she asked. "That's why I'm still in between."

Dr. Karl Friedman, Nassau County's supervising physician for football and lacrosse championships, is not a helmet advocate. "We don't need the helmet," he said. "We don't want to change the game. . . . The more equipment you put on them, the more you can let them play because now the safety is covered by the equipment. Absolutely they'll be more careless with their sticks . They'll be more fearless and the referees will loosen up."

Getting a second opinion

However, there are those in the medical community who feel strongly that hard-shell, boys-style lacrosse helmets are not only essential in the girls' game, but inevitable.

"When rules for girls lacrosse were written, they were written to keep the ball and stick out of the sphere of the head," said Dr. Jack Marzec, team physician for West Islip and East Islip high schools and consulting orthopedic physician for the Long Island Lizards professional men's lacrosse team.

"Girls are getting quicker, stronger, more aggressive," he added. "They're looking for scholarships and they want to win, just like the boys. I am adamant that hard helmets must be instituted in girls lacrosse because it's impossible to keep the stick and ball off the head."

Nationally known concussion expert Dr. Micky Collins, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said he can't make up his mind whether requiring female players to wear helmets is a good idea.

"I'm sitting on the fence," he said. "We know girls are more at risk for concussions. . . . There are a lot of issues on the table here. The only way to answer these questions is to do the research and find out, scientifically, where we're at. There is no good science leading us right now."

Originally published in Newsday
by Bob Herzog
with Stephen Haynes and James Crepea


Players must wear a mouthpiece and protective goggles. They may wear a soft padded helmet but not hard-shell headgear.

Checking is permitted on the head of the lacrosse stick only.

No deep pocket in the stick is allowed. No mesh pockets.

Length of stick is the same for all field players (typically 42 inches).

Played with 12 members on each team: a goalie, five defensive players and six attack players.

At least five players must remain on the defensive side of the field and four on the offensive side at all times.

Shooting is permitted only when pathway to goal is clear.

Defenders cannot block an attacker's pathway to shoot on goal unless they are within one stick-length of the attacker.

Cannot shoot a loose, uncontrolled ball; cannot hit another player with the ball; cannot hit the goalie in the head with the ball.


Players must wear a hard-shell helmet with face guard.

Stick-to-body contact is integral to the game.

Checking is permitted anywhere on the stick.

Pockets in sticks are allowed because of the checking.

The length of the stick is different for different positions.

Played with 10 members on each team: a goalie, three defenders, three midfielders and three attackmen.

At least four players must remain on the defensive side of the field and three on the offensive side at all times.

Players may shoot at anytime.

Students demand entrepreneurship training

Clyde Briant, professor of engineering and vice president for research, was in Washington, D.C., on July 11 for a media roundtable hosted by The Science Coalition. Innovation and entrepreneurship was a hot topic. Below is an excerpt from Briant’s answer to the question, “Are we as a nation doing enough as a nation to inspire, prepare and develop the next generation of innovators?” An MP3 recording of the session is available online.

At Brown we have the famous open curriculum – it’s still called the new curriculum even though it started in 1969 – where the students have a tremendous amount of freedom in building up what they are going to take. We attract a cohort of entrepreneurial students. We do have an entrepreneurship program. It’s a student-led organization that’s extremely active, and one I’ve worked with in various ways through the years. I’d guess it’s about eight or nine years ago, really out of student demand, [that] we started a new major — a concentration as we call it — called Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship. We don’t have a business school, but we pulled together engineering, sociology, and economics to launch this new undergraduate concentration. It certainly is one of the biggest concentrations now in a very short time because students feel that they do get experiential learning, they do get a chance to prepare themselves for a career in entrepreneurship. It’s been an extremely successful program for us.

Venture training helps entrepreneurs succeed

Venture for America's first class of 40 fellows, including engineering alumnus Tim Dingman '11, is currently on the Brown campus for the program's inaugural five-week training camp. Founded in 2011 by Brown alum Andrew Yang, the program places recent college graduates who have aspirations for entrepreneurship into two-year apprenticeships at startup and early stage companies in economically challenged cities around the country. In the fall, the first class of fellows will be headed to jobs in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Providence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For many young people, the way forward after college leads from the classroom to the corporate office, often with a stop at law or business school. But Andrew Yang knew that life after college didn’t have to follow a well-worn path; it was just a matter of making sure recent graduates knew about other options available to them. Seeking to do just that, Yang founded Venture for America, a fellowship program that pairs recent graduates with startups and early stage companies, in the summer of 2011.
Helping startups help host cities
By matching recent well-trained college graduates with
startups and early stage companies, Venture for America
hopes to help the economies of financially strained cities.
Based on the Teach for America model, Venture for America fellows complete two-year apprenticeships with companies in economically challenged cities. Working in a small company, fellows can help to grow the business while also gaining valuable real-world skills and experience. Yang also hopes that the model will have an economic impact on the cities where the partnering companies are located. “Early stage companies are where job growth and innovation are going to come from.”
Yang says it may take a few years for the effects to be obvious. “This year we’ll send five students to a city, but next year it might be 10 and then 10 again the next year. By then, the first group of students will be starting companies, and they will hire some from the next group. It’s a long-term plan to help these economies; there aren’t any quick fixes,” Yang says.
Before heading off to their respective cities, Venture for America fellows take part in a five-week training camp that prepares them for their new jobs.
Since mid-June, the first class of 40 fellows has been on the Brown campus, taking part in the program’s inaugural training camp. Each day they gather on the third floor of Pembroke Hall for a day filled with lectures and lessons by an impressive roster of industry experts — McInsey and Ideo are two of the companies taking part — followed by skill development, with small groups completing tasks such as creating a business model or programming a computer.
In September, they’ll head off to five cities around the country — New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cincinatti, Detroit, and Providence — to begin their apprenticeships. Four fellows talked about what they’re learning from the program and where they’re headed in the fall:

Tim Dingman graduated from Brown in the spring of 2011 and was entering the fifth-year master’s in engineering program when he began to think about what he’d do when he got out of school. As an organizer of the A Better World By Design conference for two years, he had realized that a lifetime in the research lab wasn’t for him: “I always felt there was a large disconnect between what was happening in the lab and what was happening in the real world where you can make the biggest immediate impact.” So when he found out about Venture for America, he knew immediately that the program would give him that dual outlet that he needed. In the fall, he’s headed to Detroit to work for Accio Energy, an early stage company that works on harvesting wind energy by giving an electrical charge to water droplets.
Dingman says that the training camp is giving him a wide range of skills to take with him to his new job, most notably the ability to be more open to feedback. “It seems intimidating to give someone very specific and personal feedback, but I’ve realized that in fact, it’s something to be encouraged and embraced to have a fully function team.”

Scott Lowe had two specific criteria in his search for a job after graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 2012: “I wanted something intellectually stimulating but also high impact.” A program at his alma mater that had him working on commercializing technologies developed by University of Oklahoma faculty helped him realize that he also had an interest in entrepreneurship. So when a friend told him about Venture for America, it sounded like the perfect fit. The aspiring CEO says the training camp is providing valuable lessons he’ll be able to put toward his future goals. “I’m viewing this as CEO training. A CEO doesn’t have to know a lot about any one thing but needs to know a little bit about every aspect of the company, from finance to sending e-mails effectively. I think they’re doing a great job of CEO training.”
Headed to Detroit in the fall to work as a software analyst at Digerati, Lowe hopes to wear many hats during his apprenticeship. And while the transition from his small Oklahoma town to a very large city will no doubt take some getting used to, Lowe says he’s excited for the potential Detroit has to offer. “One of the fellows, Derek Turner, has a great quote: ‘There are empty skyscrapers (in Detroit). Where else would you want to start a business?’ I think that really speaks to why I’m excited.”

Melanie Freidrichs won’t have far to go when she begins her apprenticeship this fall. The 2012 Brown graduate will be heading down the hill to Providence-based Andera, an early stage company that creates software for small banking companies. It’s an ideal assignment for Freidrichs, who hopes to remain in the industry for the long term. “It’s an area that has been on the forefront of technology in many ways, but I do think there is a long way to go in terms of mobile banking and mobile payments and seeing what can be done to play with the traditional banking model to make that information easier to understand and more accessible for everyone.”
Freidrichs says she’s thankful for all of the technical skills she’s acquiring in the training camp, such as programming and Java, which will serve her well at her new job. She says she also appreciates the balance of startup and corporate perspectives that has been offered, despite Venture for America’s primarily small-business focus. “I don’t feel that the best entrepreneurs are the one’s that get caught up in being super startupy. I’m trying to look at what influences I can take from big business versus the startup world to be the best entrepreneur.”

When Michael Mayer was preparing to graduate from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, he turned to family and friends for guidance. Many of them had had success in banking, so Mayer chose a similar path, starting out as an intern for Credit Suisse the summer before his senior year. But when the company offered him a job, he turned it down. “I had an incredible summer, but the day-to-day in banking was not something I could get behind and get passionate about,” Mayer says. He confesses that he was initially nervous about his decision, but when he stumbled upon Venture for America, he knew he’d made the right choice. “It was kind of love at first sight,” Mayer says.
One aspect of the program that attracted him has the community outreach component. “You’re going to these places that need help, and not only are you helping to grow a business and enhance the local economy, but you’re also there to mentor kids at high schools or start some kind of social program to help people connect, so there’s a whole different aspect that you don’t get working at a startup elsewhere.” Mayer will be able to put that philanthropic spirit to good use in New Orleans, where he’ll be working for market research technology firm Federated Sample. Where he goes after his apprenticeship, he’s unsure, but he’s certain that he’ll value and use the network of fellows he’s met at the training camp for many years. “When I have a business idea, the first people I’m going to call are the fellows. While we’re here, we’re throwing out ideas left and right, giving constructive criticism and helping each other out, so we’re all going to be close and comfortable talking about our new ideas later on. I’m so excited to see what the future holds.”
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