Playing lacrosse has so many fantastic benefits – team camaraderie, tactics, fitness, health benefits…the list goes on and on.
However, like all sports, it can sometimes hurt!
Though not a particularly dangerous sport, there are several key risks.
The most common injuries in lacrosse are lower extremity injuries which are primarily ankle and knee sprains, back pain, and wrist fractures followed by head injuries, such as contusions and concussions.
The main risks in lacrosse are:
- Getting hit by the ball
- Being hit by a stick
- Twisting or slipping injuries
However, this article is not intended to scare you away from the game!
To get the most out of lacrosse it is just better to be aware of the kind of injuries one could face. Then you can take appropriate steps to avoid these things happening.
By practising your fitness, technique, and taking a few sensible precautions, you greatly reduce the risk of injury in lacrosse.
Here are the nine most common ways that lacrosse can hurt.
1. Ankle Sprains
The most common and frequent injury that occurs during a game of lacrosse is an ankle sprain.
An ankle sprain is mostly caused by the twisting or turning of the ankle at the wrong angle, mostly while running fast or making really quick foot movements.
This twist or turn of the angle in the wrong angle causes ligament tear or stretch which can cause intense pain depending upon the severity of the sprain.
Ankle sprain injuries in lacrosse are not unheard of during matches mainly because of the mechanism and management of the game. These injuries are typically due to noncontact cutting, dodging, or torsion activities.
Although common, they are typically not severe in terms of complications or time loss. Injury prevention of ankle sprains is mostly not a very costly or time-consuming act nor does it require extensive time to heal.
Some methods of injury prevention include evaluating for preexisting ankle instability during the pre-participation examination, complete rehabilitation and recovery before playing, and initiating taping or bracing.
2. Knee Sprains
Similar to an ankle sprain, a knee sprain is also caused due to an abnormal turn or bend of the knee.
These ligament sprains commonly occur because of the sharp cutting and dodging movements required to play lacrosse.
A very severe knee sprain can often lead to internal derangement of the knee, specifically that of the anterior cruciate ligament. The ACL is located in the center of the knee joint, where it runs from the backside of the femur (thigh bone) to connect to the front of the tibia (shin bone).
Treatment of ACL injury can be done rehabilitation-only or it can be surgical with rehabilitation afterward.
No matter the initial management decision, the time loss after ACL injury is significant. The mechanism of ACL injury in lacrosse at all levels and both genders appear to be similar: non contact or indirect mechanism injuries most likely due to the cutting and pivoting (Hinton, Sutton, & McCollum, 2010). (Source)
3. Shoulder Dislocations
Shoulders are also one of the most frequently injured body parts during lacrosse.
Because of the nature and mechanism of the game, understandably, shoulder injuries are so common.
Gardner EC, Chan WW, Sutton KM, and Blaine TA conducted a study that shows shoulder injuries are common in NCAA men’s lacrosse and are an important source of lost playing time. (Source)
Acromioclavicular injuries were the most frequent injury in this series, but labral and instability injuries were also common.
In this increasingly popular contact sport, an understanding of the epidemiology and mechanism of shoulder injuries may be used to improve protective equipment and develop injury prevention.
Wearing the right protective equipment, frequent practice, and being proactive in your conditioning can really help reduce the chances of such injuries.
4. Rib Fractures
A lot of lacrosse players don’t like to wear much padding just so they can move faster and more swiftly.
However, along with increased chances of productivity, it also increases the chances of facing severe injuries such as a rib fracture. Rib pads are not an essential requirement while playing lacrosse but they are highly recommended.
A stick check across the rib can very easily fracture or break several ribs. So if you want to stay in the game and avoid all such risks, put on those rib pads!
A contusion is basically the medical jargon used for a bruise. They are a very common sports injury and are usually caused by a direct blow or fall.
A contusion happens when an injured capillary or blood vessel leaks blood into the surrounding area leaving a blackish blue mark.
In a study, contusions were recorded as the most common injury type in lacrosse, constituting 32.0% of all injuries reported. (Source)
It is not a long-term injury nor a very time taking one. Icing helps with pain and swelling almost immediately.
Another common sports injury is a concussion.
Any sport that involves a ball and running simply puts you at the risk of getting a concussion.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but it may take hours to days to show up.
In most concussions, an athlete is not entirely knocked out or unconscious but mostly just a bit woozy.
While helmets have not been shown to prevent concussions entirely, they are recommended for use in lacrosse to prevent head, neck, jaw, and dental injuries.
Helmets with face masks are required for male athletes and both male and female goalkeepers. Soft helmets made of foam-type material are optional but highly recommended for female athletes.
7. Back Pain
Lacrosse players often face lower back pain due to the way the body posture is during the game.
Back pain can either be slight or cause major discomfort to the player depending on the severity and cause of the injury. If the back pain is caused by either a cross-check or an opponent shooting then the injury will definitely cause severe ache for a few days and require bed rest.
As lacrosse players use their entire body to shoot the ball into the net including their back muscles, often which can be the cause for back pain.
With a back injury, to ensure things don’t get worse, rest and rehabilitation are advised.
8. Eye Injuries
As mentioned above, both boys and girls are now required to wear helmets with face masks.
This is to help protect and shield their face from serious injuries especially eye and dental injuries which can very commonly occur in sports that involve balls but can also result from a finger or another object like a stick going in the eye accidentally.
Eye injuries can be time-consuming and can affect the player’s game depending on its severity which is why protective gear is highly recommended!
9. Wrist Fracture
Another popular injury to happen across the lacrosse field.
Since lacrosse is a contact sport involving a metal stick, it is not unlikely for the player to fall on the field holding the stick causing the injury, or for an opponent to miss and check the player on the wrist.
The treatment can immediately begin with icing however the athlete must go see a doctor urgently if the wrist is swollen, bruised, or hurting for over 24 hours.
By now we wouldn’t blame you if you were feeling a little scared of playing lacrosse.
However, as I mentioned above, this article is not to frighten you but to educate you on the possibilities of injuries.
Just remember that lacrosse injuries can easily be prevented if fair play is encouraged and the rules of the game are enforced.
If you’re wearing the proper required equipment and all safety guidelines are being followed then the chances of you being injured during a game of lacrosse are very rare.
I hope that you enjoy playing lacrosse and stay safe!
- Hinton, R., Sutton, K. M., & McCollum, J. (2010). Lacrosse Injuries. Rochester: Sports Medicine.
- Kerr, Z. Y., Lincoln, A. E., Morris, S., & al, e. (2019). Injury Incidence in Youth, High School, and NCAA Men’s Lacrosse. Pediatrics.