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The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

Lacrosse player sidelined by helmet issue is back on field with new headgear

Alex Chu modeled his new lacrosse helmet.
Alex Chu modeled his new lacrosse helmet. Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe

He’s back on the field.

Alex Chu, the Wheaton College lacrosse goalie sidelined for months because the team couldn’t get a helmet big enough to fit him, is back in goal after a major sporting goods manufacturer agreed to make a custom helmet for him.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Chu said by phone from the campus in Norton, where he was recruited for lacrosse after a stellar career in goal at Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton. “I just want to be on the field with my teammates.”

Chu’s parents, coaches, and supporters tried for months to convince one of two manufacturers — Cascade Maverick and Warrior — to make him a custom helmet but got nowhere.

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Warrior said a custom-made helmet would be “cost-prohibitive” because retooling factory machinery could cost “tens of thousands of dollars.” Cascade Maverick didn’t respond at all.

After Chu’s plight was featured in a Fine Print column on the front page of the Globe on Feb. 17, Cascade Maverick stepped up and delivered a custom-made, certified helmet to Alex at Wheaton on Tuesday.

“It fits and Alex is now able to continue his lacrosse career in college,” Roland LaRose of Cascade Maverick wrote in an e-mail to me.

LaRose said the helmet cost less than $500, using the template that was developed to make a custom helmet for a star player at the University of Albany.

LaRose acknowledged that the company had brushed aside requests for help.

Alex Chu had been waiting to join his team at Wheaton College.
Alex Chu had been waiting to join his team at Wheaton College. Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe

“It was unfortunate that it took this article [in the Globe] to spur the necessary changes that enabled us to provide a helmet to Alex, but sometimes it takes something like this to get all the appropriate parties in line to make it happen,” LaRose wrote in the e-mail.

“I’m thrilled that he is back on the field where he loves to be,” said Alison Chu, Alex’s mother. “There have been so many complete strangers who have come forward to help Alex.” She said the cost of the special helmet was never discussed with her.

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Chu’s head circumference is slightly larger than 25 inches, so big that in high school he wore a rigged-up helmet that a local fabricator made by combining the front and back portions of two different helmets.

Chu, 19, of Mendon, was supposed to be on the field for practice sessions last fall and the team’s first game last week. But NCAA rules require all players to wear safety-certified helmets and even the largest helmets from commercial sporting equipment suppliers proved too small.

The column sent several older lacrosse players into their garages or attics in search of their own extra-large helmets. And at least two of them delivered those old helmets to the Chu family.

Alas, they were too tattered to pass inspection.

So now Chu, a soft-spoken teenager who wants to be an elementary school teacher, is wearing a shiny new helmet.

“I’m ready,” he said.


Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.