Lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America and the fastest growing team sport in the United States. There is also a rise in the number of injuries associated with this collision sport.
Male lacrosse players wear protective equipment that includes a helmet with a full facemask similar to those worn in hockey. They also wear shoulder pads, a mouth guard and arm pads with gloves.
Injuries in men’s lacrosse can be divided into two categories:
• Injuries above the waist: These injuries are generally the result of direct contact. Rules allow for body and stick checking when players possess or are within 5 yards of the ball. Head injuries in the form of concussion are the most common above-the-waist injury. This is followed by shoulder and other upper extremity injuries.
• Injuries below the waist: These account for approximately 40% of lacrosse injuries and are non-contact in nature. Lower extremity injuries result from pivoting and twisting and most often involve the ankle, upper leg and knee. Damage to ligaments in the form of sprains and tears are common along with muscle strains.
Women’s lacrosse is a non-collision sport. Despite the lack of contact, lower extremity injuries are similar to those seen in men.
The use of protective equipment in the women’s game is controversial. Eye protection only became mandatory three years ago.
“The use of protective goggles in women’s lacrosse has resulted in a dramatic decline in eye injuries,” said Janeen Beetle, head athletic trainer at Norwich Free Academy.
Impact injuries to the head and face from flailing sticks and balls moving at high velocity continue to cause contusions and lacerations. Requiring head protection has been proposed.
As the sport of lacrosse continues to increase in popularity, appropriate safety equipment must also be reconsidered.