Equipment is often one of the first things addressed when trying to increase the safety of athletes. But sometimes the answer to making a sport safer is so obvious it's overlooked.
The ball itself.
Guardian recently developed a new ball—the Pearl—made entirely of polyurethane. According to its website, it was named the official ball of U.S. Lacrosse in July 2016.
Traditional lacrosse balls are made from vulcanized rubber. Guardian said that these balls are filled with oils and plasticizers that separate over time and leach onto the surface of the ball, causing it to harden and become greasy.
These balls—or "greasers"—cause players to adjust their shots to compensate for the lack of grip they provide, leading to inaccuracy. And when you factor in that Lacrosse balls are hurled up to 90 mph during a game, greater inaccuracy with a harder ball leads to more injuries.
Guardian's Pearl addresses both of these issues because its PU complexion resists grease and hardening. The ball is manufactured in the firm's Colorado facility and, according to Pearl, is the first lacrosse ball to be manufactured in the U.S.
It also is certified by the Safety Equipment Institute and meets the new softer, safer standards for lacrosse balls approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. NOCSAE previously allowed a range of pressure from 110-210 pounds, but the new specifications that went into effect for balls produced after December 2016 lowered that range to 115-150 pounds to help improve safety, Guardian said.
The sponsorship agreement between U.S. Lacrosse and Guardian runs through 2018, with a portion of the proceeds from each ball sold going to the U.S. Lacrosse Sports, Science & Safety committee, a body tasked to make the sport safer.
Chris Sweeney is an avid sports fan, but had never used the term "greaser" until writing this blog. Follow him on Twitter @CSweeneyRPN.