Safety Primer: NOCSAE Standards and Equipment

NOCSAE LogoWe’ve all seen it before. When you buy new equipment or balls in the description you’ll see the words NOCSAE Certified.  However, have you ever stopped to ask, what exactly is NOCSAE and why does it matter?  Well, we’re all going to be thinking more about NOCSAE going into the 2021 and 2022 seasons.  That is when new equipment safety standards from US Lacrosse go into effect.

Many parents question changes like this because the result is you have to spend more money.  However, t’s important to understand the purpose of NOCSAE.  The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is an independent, nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to “enhance athletic safety through scientific creation of performance standards for athletic equipment.”  To put it simply NOCSAE develops the performance tests and standards for sports equipment.  In turn, a second non-profit organization, the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI), conducts the testing and certifies when equipment meets or exceeds the NOCSAE standards.  These unseen organizations are the ones that ensure the protective equipment we put on our players actually works.

Many organizations, including the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), NFL, NCAA, and US Lacrosse require equipment to meet NOCSAE standards.  Several pieces of equipment in lacrosse, including helmets, chest protectors, and balls, require NOCSAE certification.

A change for lacrosse due to a very real injury

In 2019, US Lacrosse made a very significant change to its equipment rules.  Starting in 2020, all goalies must wear chest protectors that meet the NOCSAE ND200 standard, which requires specific chest protection to prevent a rare but deadly injury – commotio cordis.  Commotio cordis is an injury that can result in sudden cardiac arrest when there is blunt trauma to the chest.  While the injury is extremely rare, US Lacrosse has taken the stance of doing everything it can to protect players.  In 2022, these same standards will apply to field players.

If buying new, get pads that meet the standard

These are several products on the market now that meet the new ND200 standard.  If you are in the market for a new chest protector or collarbone/shoulder pads, the best option is to buy pads now that meet the standard. You will ensure your player’s equipment will meet the new requirements and do everything possible to keep your player safe.

What about the rest of the equipment

Two other pieces of equipment are often overlooked but are just as important.  The first is groin protection.  For some reason, wearing groin protection is uncool, and players complain it is uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, these are extremely bad excuses.  Even minor groin injuries can be debilitating and impact a player negatively long-term.  The simple solution is to wear groin protection.

Another overlooked area is lacrosse balls.  Lacrosse balls must meet NOCSAE standards, but there are sellers on sites like Amazon selling counterfeit balls that do not meet the standard.  Additionally, Signature lacrosse balls were removed from the certification list due to issues related to their supplier.  Balls that do not meet that standard may be too heavy or too hard, making them more dangerous when used during play.

We highly recommend that parents review the certified lacrosse equipment list on the Safety Equipment Institute’s website and only purchase those products that are verified to meet NOCSAE standards.