New Jersey school district mandates soft helmets for all soccer, field hockey and lacrosse players to widespread controversy

Cameron Smith

Fairfield lacrosse player Caitlin Townsend competes in the SG360 — Fairfield University

Princeton University is known for being one of America's more forward thinking institutions of higher learning. Now the public schools in the town that the Tigers call home may be following suit when it comes to student athlete safety.

As reported by the Times of Trenton, the Princeton school district became the first in the state -- and among only a tiny group nationwide -- to mandate all players in boys and girls soccer, field hockey and girls lacrosse wear protective soft helmets to diminish the likelihood of suffering concussions from impact during games. Princeton athletes will be given the equipment that will fulfill the new headgear regulations for free from the school board.

While some have praised Princeton’s decision as a major step forward for athlete safety, others have criticized the move as unfair for other athletes in the state from districts that might not be able to afford the headgear, claiming that Princeton athletes will be more likely to play aggressively with less fear that they could suffer from impacts resulting from head-to-head contact.

Additionally, some doctors have criticized the move as being ineffectual, citing a "false sense of protection" that could make players compete more aggressively and in turn be more likely to suffer head trauma as a result.

The SG360, which will be worn by Princeton schools athletes — HRP Products

"I don't think that there are any scientific studies that show that this headgear works," Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey president Barbara Greiger-Parker told the Times. "I am unaware that there is gear that has been approved to reduce concussions in soccer, lacrosse and field hockey."

Those doubts haven’t slowed Princeton from adopting the new safety standards, nor has the cost of the prospective headgear that will be used. The teams will reportedly be outfitted with gel-based soft helmets called the SG360, which are produced by a company named HRP Products. The Times reported that the equipment will cost roughly $70 per item, a total sum that could be prohibitive for many districts given the sheer number of athletes competing in the four affected sports.

For the Princeton school board, that wasn’t enough to deter them from moving forward on the safety measure, even as others continue to question its wisdom.

"We're very aware that for players in all sports there's a risk of head injuries and we're just trying to do whatever we can to prevent them," said Timothy Quinn, president of the Princeton school board. …

"We're very proud of that. We're actually being very proactive in trying to protect our students," [Princeton athletic director John Miranda] said.

Want more on the best stories in high school sports? Visit RivalsHigh or connect with Prep Rally on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.