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NOCSAE launches ND200: First-Ever Performance Standard for Chest Protection

As we near the 21st anniversary of Louis Acompora’s tragic passing, Team STX is reflecting on the important role protective gear plays in the game.

On March 25, 2000, Acompora died at 14 years old from a condition known as Commotio Cordis—a disruption of the heart rhythm that leads to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). How did this happen?

A single blow to the chest from a lacrosse ball during his very first high school lacrosse game.

Young baseball players have also been known to experience Commotio Cordis from ball impacts to the chest. Regardless of the sport, medical researchers say an occurrence of Commotio Cordis has more to do with when during a heartbeat cycle the impact occurs than the speed of the ball at impact. In fact, those same researchers say that the condition is more likely to happen with a ball speed of between 30-50 mph than it is to happen with a ball speed of 80-90 mph. 

As athletes, it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of playing the game we love and forget about being safe in the midst of it. Sharing this story isn’t to scare young athletes away from the sport, but to highlight the importance of protective gear so that players can perform at a competitive level, grow in skill, play huge, and stay safe at the same time.

The Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation was established in 2000 to increase awareness around the incident and other cases like Acompora’s. The movement only snowballed from there as teams of medical professionals, national governing bodies, academics, equipment suppliers, and certification labs began working together to understand the effects on young lacrosse players and prevent similar tragedies.

The response? The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) developed and published the ND200 standard in 2018  in an effort to reduce impact forces and thus the risk of Commotio Cordis and SCA in young players. It did so with an understanding that Commotio Cordis is a complex phenomenon that cannot always be prevented.

Beginning in 2021, the use of goalie chest protectors that meet the new NOCSAE performance standard will be mandatory in the US Lacrosse boys’ and girls’ youth rules, the NFHS boys’ and girls’ high school rules, and the NCAA men’s and women’s rules. And beginning in 2022, US Lacrosse boys’ field players, NFHS boys’ field players, and NCAA men’s field players must also wear chest protection (shoulder pads) that meets the NOCSAE ND200 standard.

Most players want to wear as little protective gear as possible, fearing that it will inhibit or change performance. But over the last couple of years, ever since this critical standard was introduced, STX’s R&D team has been hard at work to ensure standards are effectively met without sacrificing performance.

We sat down with Patrick Gowan, the brains behind STX’s NOCSAE ND200 activation, to learn more:

This activation has been years in the making. Can you take us through the process?

As always, the process began and ended with the player. We partnered with some of the best programs in the country, including the Duke University Blue Devils, University of North Carolina Tar Heels, Ohio State Buckeyes, Syracuse Orange, Cornell Big Red, Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, and Tufts for input from players, coaches and equipment managers.

The equipment managers actually bring a really unique perspective because they are hyper-aware of how players interact with their gear. They often notice things that the players themselves don’t even realize about how the equipment affects a player’s performance.

What are you most proud of?

In Fall 2020, we launched a line of goalie chest protectors—Shield 200, Shield 400, Shield 600—and youth shoulder pads—Stallion 200+ and Stallion 75—that are fully compliant with the new standards.

This year, we’re also launching a line of elite-level ND200 shoulder pads as part of the Cell V protective line.

This particular project has been a multi-year effort with a complex set of people coming together, but at the end of the day, everyone was committed to finding a new level of protection for the players without interfering with the integrity of the game. The spirit of collaboration between the different groups over the course of the process was inspiring to see.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

The biggest challenge was making sure that the needs of the athletes were being met, and that we didn’t just bolt on a thicker pad that passed the new standard. We spent a lot of time analyzing the way a goaltender moves in his or her gear, not just in making a save, but in making a pass, dodging an attacker on the clear, and so on.

How did you navigate the tension of these new standards while preserving the player’s style and competitive edge?

By involving the athletes early and often, we were able to identify and define the players’ needs and develop our solution to fit accordingly. We spent significant time with the athletes, working on ways to incorporate new protective elements without impeding flexibility or mobility.

We were also laser-focused on the younger athlete in developing the Stallion 200+ and Stallion 75 shoulder pad lines. Knowing that this is the first experience for many of these U10 players, we wanted to provide a solution that made that first day at practice as unencumbered as possible. This sport is hard enough to learn without also having to worry about a shoulder pad that gets in the way when you’re trying to pick up a ground ball under pressure.

Through numerous lab trials and player feedback sessions with different prototypes, our R&D team was able to identify a patent-pending protective solution that’s low-profile, lightweight and comfortable.

Check out the specs on the all-new NOCSAE ND200-standard equipment below:

Men’s Lacrosse:

For the beginner-level goalie: Shield 200 Chest Protector

For the intermediate-level goalie: Shield 400 Chest Protector

For the elite-level and professional goalie: Shield 600 Chest Protector

For the beginner-level field player: Stallion 200+ Shoulder Pad and the Stallion 75 Shoulder Pad

For the elite-level field player: Cell V Protective Line

Women’s Lacrosse:

For the beginner-level goalie: Shield 200 Chest Protector

For the intermediate-level goalie: Shield 400 Chest Protector

For the elite-level and professional goalie: Shield 600 Chest Protector

#PlayHuge