“I am impressed, but not surprised,” said Dr. Stuart Dankner, a pediatric ophthalmologist who sits on the eye safety committee of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Dankner, who was not involved in the new study, said that eye protection has reduced injuries in hockey, baseball and other sports.
“It’s just a shame that it took so long” to become mandated for women’s lacrosse, he added.
Men’s lacrosse, which is considered a collision sport, introduced eye gear before the women’s game, which is a non-contact sport.
Dankner told Reuters Health that he has treated cases of severe eye injury among girls who played lacrosse, either from getting smacked with the stick, colliding with another player, or getting hit with the ball.
The new study, funded by US Lacrosse, tracked eye injuries among 25 high school girls lacrosse teams for four years before the mandate and six years after the mandate.
From 2000 to 2003, there were 22 eye injuries, and from 2004 to 2009 there were just five. That corresponds to one injury per player per 10,000 practices and games versus 1.6 per 100,000.
Four of the five injuries that occurred after the eyewear requirement happened while the girls were not wearing the protective gear. The fifth injury involved eye inflammation.
“As long as the athletes are wearing it seems to be doing what we hope it would,” said lead author Andrew Lincoln, the director of sports medicine research at MedStar Health Research Institute in Baltimore.
Other injuries to the face and head also went down, from 33 before the mandate to 21 after.