Lacrosse is a fast-moving, fun sport to play and watch. The rules of boys' lacrosse allow for a lot more contact than in girls' lacrosse. But even in girls' lacrosse, players collide and people accidentally get hit with sticks and balls. When everyone's moving so fast and using sticks to sling a solid rubber ball around, injuries can happen.
To keep things as safe as possible while playing lacrosse, follow these tips.
Safe Lacrosse Gear
The right protective gear is important for any sport, especially a contact sport like boys' lacrosse. All gear should be approved for lacrosse and fit correctly.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to safety gear:
- Helmets. Boys' lacrosse players are required to wear helmets with facemasks, but girls' lacrosse players are not. Always choose a helmet that is approved specifically for lacrosse by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). This means that it has been tested and passed safety regulations. Girls' lacrosse players may wear a soft helmet when they play.
- Goggles. Girls' lacrosse players are required to wear eye protection. Most goggles are made of steel cages that protect the eyes, but some players choose plastic goggles that allow for better peripheral vision.
- Cleats. Choose shoes with molded cleats or ribbed soles.
- Mouthguards. Mouthguards protect the teeth, lips, cheeks, and tongue. They're required for all lacrosse players.
- Gloves. Lacrosse gloves are required in boys' lacrosse. Gloves should protect the fingers, hands, and wrists, while allowing the hands to move freely and grip the stick. Make sure there are hard plastic inserts to protect the thumbs. Girls sometimes wear lightweight field gloves, especially in cold weather.
- Elbow and shoulder pads. These are almost always required in boys' lacrosse. They help protect the arms and upper body. For added protection, some players wear full arm guards or rib pads.
- Cup. Guys usually are required to wear protective cups (and even when cups are optional, guys should wear them).
- Stick. Lacrosse sticks are different for guys and girls. In boys' lacrosse, the pocket of the stick is deeper, which helps a player to throw the ball faster.
Goalies need this special gear:
- Head and neck protection. Helmets with throat protectors attached to them are required for all goalies in both boys' and girls' lacrosse.
- Gloves. Goalies can wear regular lacrosse gloves, but some prefer gloves that are longer or have extra padding. Girls' lacrosse goalies are required to wear padded gloves.
- Chest protector. All lacrosse goalies are required to wear chest protection. The chest protector goes under the jersey.
- Arm and leg protection. Lacrosse goalies usually wear arm pads and have padded lacrosse pants under their shorts. Girls also must wear protective shinguards at the youth and high school levels.
- Stick. Lacrosse goalies use sticks that have bigger, wider heads to help them block shots.
Safe Lacrosse Practice
The team should have a coach who emphasizes safe, fair play at practices and games. To prevent injuries during practice, players should:
- Get a sports physical before starting any new sport.
- Check the field to make sure there are no holes or other obstacles, including debris and broken glass. Store extra balls and equipment well off to the sides of the field before a practice or game starts.
- Check the goals at each end of the field to make sure they're safe.
- Remove any piercings or jewelry before playing.
- Always warm up and stretch before playing.
- Use proper techniques, particularly when it comes to stick-handling, shooting, and — in boys' lacrosse — body and stick checking. Illegal use of the stick and illegal body checks are common causes of injuries.
- Stop training if they get hurt or feel pain. Players must get checked by an athletic trainer, coach, doctor, or nurse before going back on the field.
- Stay hydrated, particularly on hot, sunny days, by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after games and practices.
- Know the team plan for emergencies.
- Play different sports throughout the year to prevent overuse injuries.
During games, players should:
- Follow all safety rules used during practice.
- Know the rules of the game and follow them.
- Be respectful of the referees and not argue with their calls.
- Stay calm if an opposing player collides with them or does something they disagree with. Don't take it personally. Let the referees handle the situation, and never start a fight with another player.
Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: March 2019