For whatever reason, lacrosse players like to throw around a lot of slang terms when they’re around their teammates. To a lacrosse newcomer, these words and phrases can be a bit confusing. A prominent example of this is the term “tilt” in lacrosse.
Tilt describes where the helmet face mask sits in relation to a player’s eye level. With high tilt, the helmet tilts forward so that the player sees through the first two face mask bars. With low tilt, the helmet tilts backward so that the player sees through the second and third face mask bars.
This can be tough to visualize with words alone, so a few labeled images have been provided below to show you real examples of the different degrees of tilt in lacrosse. This article will also cover the reasons why players are so obsessed with helmet tilt along with any repercussions helmet tilt may have on safety. Read until the end to get a step-by-step guide on how you can adjust your helmet to get the optimal level of tilt.
The Meaning of Helmet Tilt in Lacrosse
The lacrosse helmet is one of the most revered pieces of lacrosse gear out there. With its aesthetically pleasing design, players take a great deal of pride when they strap on their helmet for games.
As a result of this infatuation over helmet appearance, lacrosse players have taken a considerable interest in how the helmet sits on a player’s head, a concept that’s summarized by the slang term “tilt.”
Tilt is essentially short for helmet tilt. It’s a descriptive term used to communicate whether the helmet is tilted forward or backward on a player’s head. Depending on the level of tilt, a player can look more or less aesthetically pleasing.
Since lacrosse helmets are conveniently adjustable, players can achieve a certain level of tilt by modifying the tightness of the chinstrap and the helmet cushioning. It takes a little bit of trial and error, but every player is able to tweak their helmet to procure the appropriate level of tilt for their head structure.
Obviously, helmet tilt is not a critical reflection of how well a player is able to perform on the field. It’s more of a running joke in the lacrosse community that low levels of helmet tilt are associated with bad players whereas high levels of helmet tilt are associated with good players.
Examples of the Varying Levels of Helmet Tilt (With Images)
To fully understand the idea of helmet tilt, it’s best to see it with your own eyes. Posted below are pictures of the varying degrees of helmet tilt and the general perceptions that lacrosse players have with each tilt level.
Description – A player has “no tilt” if they’re looking at or below the third bar on the face mask. It almost looks like the helmet is popping a wheelie.
General Perception by Other Players – Players that wear their helmet in this manner are generally perceived as inexperienced beginners. Since they don’t know how to put on their helmet the right way, it’s assumed that they don’t know how to play lacrosse the right way.
Description – “Low tilt” is used to describe players that see through the second and third bars on the face mask. The helmet visor sits well above eye level, failing to keep the sun out of their eyes.
General Perception by Other Players – Low tilt is a step up from having no tilt at all, but it’s not much better. Players that wear their helmet this way are still largely seen as novices. Maybe one season of play under their belt at best. Players that wear their helmet this way are often said to have a case of “second bar syndrome.”
Description – The majority of experienced lacrosse players fall within the “medium tilt” category. At this tilt level, players see through the first and second bar of the helmet face mask. However, the helmet is not tilted forward enough to drastically impede their field of vision.
General Perception By Other Players – Medium tilt is often associated with players that been around the lacrosse block for awhile. They know the in’s and out’s of helmet tilt, so they obviously have a sufficient knowledge of what to do on the field.
Description – Players with “high tilt” dip their helmet so far forward that it appears as though they can barely see. The helmet visor sits so low on their eyes that it actually hinders their field of vision.
General Perception By Other Players – High tilt is largely reserved for the lax elite. They’re considered to be so good at lacrosse that it doesn’t even matter that they can barely see the field. Sacrificing vision to look good is a price that they’re willing to pay.
Why are Lacrosse Players Obsessed with Helmet Tilt?
The obsession over tilt largely stems from the look good, play good mentality. Players want to get the newest, freshest gear and wear it the right way to look their best on the field.
Plus, the majority of lacrosse players model their look after skilled collegiate and professional lacrosse players. Since there’s so much equipment involved in lacrosse, each collegiate and professional lacrosse player has the opportunity to customize their gear to create their own unique look. Believe it or not, younger players do take note of these things. Then, they try to copy every little detail so that they can recreate their favorite player’s look.
Many renowned lacrosse players tend to wear their helmet with medium to high tilt. This trend trickles down the line, from top to bottom. This is also another major reason why lacrosse players jokingly link a player’s skill set with helmet tilt. If they’re not following what the best of the best are doing, they’re out of the loop!
Does Helmet Tilt Have Any Impact on Safety?
Aside from appearance, the tilt of a player’s helmet does have some safety repercussions to consider. These safety considerations apply for players that opt for both high tilt and low tilt.
Excessive Helmet Tilt Compromises Vision
Although tilting the helmet forward an exorbitant amount does look crisp, it also compromises vision considerably.
Since the helmet visor practically sits directly over a player’s line of sight, the top portion of their view is completely blocked off. Players with overly excessive tilt may even have to raise their chin up slightly so that they can see the field.
With this degree of tilt, safety is certainly an issue. If a player is virtually blind during the game, they leave themselves vulnerable to blindside checks and errant shots. Both of which could do some serious harm, particularly if the player doesn’t know that the blow is coming.
Insufficient Helmet Tilt Makes It Easier for the Helmet to Get Knocked Off
On the other end of the spectrum, insufficient helmet tilt is an entirely different cause for concern.
When a player tilts their helmet backward to a large degree, it’s far easier for the helmet to get knocked off. If a player is faced with an accidental blow to the helmet, it’s more than likely that the helmet will pop off. Players are at a much greater risk for injury if their helmet is prone to coming off during games.
In addition, players that wear their helmet with little to no tilt expose their chin to incidental contact. The face mask is supposed to protect this facial area, but because players aren’t wearing their helmet properly, the chin is left uncovered and vulnerable to injury.
What’s the Safest Amount of Helmet Tilt?
The lacrosse helmet is most protective when players wear their helmet at a medium level of tilt. When players look through the first two bars of the face mask, they have a clear line of vision and the helmet is less likely to get knocked off.
Since everyone’s head is shaped different, achieving the perfect level of tilt varies from player to player. Ultimately, you will have to experiment on your own to make sure the helmet sits just right on your head.
To help accelerate this process, follow the step-by-step guide below so that you don’t have to fiddle around with the helmet straps for too long.
How Do You Get Good Tilt on a Lacrosse Helmet?
This step-by-step guide can be accomplished on your own. However, this process is best done with another person, as constantly taking the helmet on and off may throw off the adjustments you need to make. If you can, try to bring another person on board so that they can make the necessary adjustments on the fly.
Step 1: Tighten or Loosen the Adjustable Helmet Clip
First, you should place the helmet on your head so that your eyes are looking through the top bar of the face mask. Be sure that the tilt is not too much or too little. Take note of whether the helmet feels too loose or too tight.
Most lacrosse helmets have an adjustable clip located on the back end of the helmet. If your helmet feels too loose, slowly tighten the clip until the helmet feels snug. On the other hand, if your helmet feels too tight, slowly loosen this clip until the helmet is comfortable. If your helmet doesn’t have this adjustable clip, skip this step.
Step 2: Add or Remove the Interior Padding
Every lacrosse helmet is fitted with padding on the interior of the helmet. Depending on the size of your head, you can add or remove the interior padding at your discretion since each individual piece of padding is fitted with a Velcro.
If the helmet still feels too tight or too loose even after modifying the adjustable helmet clip, you may want to add or remove some interior padding so that the helmet better fits the contours of your head. Ideally, you don’t want the helmet to rattle at all when you shake your head around.
Step 3: Button Up the Chinstrap
Next, you want to install the chinstrap. To do this, first button up the top portions of the chinstrap to the helmet. For now, leave the bottom portions of the chinstrap hanging.
From here, reposition the helmet so that you’re looking through the first two bars of the face mask, directly beneath the helmet visor. Then, hold the chinstrap to your chin in a comfortable position.
Step 4: Pull Out the Slack on the Chinstraps
Holding the chinstrap onto your chin, unstrap one of the top buttons of the chinstrap and pull out the slack on that side. Take a mental note of whether you need to tighten or loosen that top strap to get the desired amount of slack.
Adjust the top straps until nearly all of the slack has been pulled out of the top two straps of the chinstrap. If you do it right, the chinstrap should sit snug on your chin even without the bottom straps buttoned. Take care that both straps have an even amount of slack, otherwise the helmet will sit lopsided on your head. It’s highly recommended that you dial in the top portions of the chinstrap first before moving on to the bottom straps.
Once the top straps are finished, repeat the process for the bottom straps. After this, you will have a fully functional lacrosse helmet with the ideal amount of tilt at your disposal.
Keep in mind that adjusting the chinstraps is the singlemost important step in determining how much tilt there will be on your helmet.
The Bottom Line
Helmet tilt is essentially just an inside joke within the lacrosse community. Although many lacrosse players poke fun at players that don’t have the right amount of tilt, it’s not indicative of skill. There are plenty of pros that go against the grain and rock “second bar syndrome,” despite the jests from the lacrosse community.