Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport at the high school level in the United States. There are currently more than 170,000 high school lacrosse players. Recently, the number of youth lacrosse players exceeded 400,000 for the first time ever. In fact, over half the athletes who play lacrosse are youth lacrosse players.
With these large numbers of players and kids entering the sport, we must find ways to keep the injuries in the sport as low as possible.
We should at least consider equipment changes in girls’ lacrosse. Over 35% of injuries in girls’ lacrosse affect the head and face of the athletes. Almost two-thirds of concussions occurring in girls’ lacrosse result from contact with the playing apparatus or player-to-player contact. These head and face injuries occur despite rules designed to eliminate stick checking in girls’ lacrosse. Girls currently must wear eye protection, but given the head injury data, it’s at least worth considering mandatory helmets for female lacrosse athletes.
Ankle and lower extremity injury prevention programs might help lacrosse players and teams. After the head and face, the leg/ankle/foot (over 25%), and the knee (12.4%) are the most commonly injured body areas. Ankle injuries, like ankle sprains, are common in lacrosse. Teams of all ages and skill levels should consider having their players perform ankle injury prevention programs on a daily basis as part of their warm-ups. Plus many of the comprehensive lower extremity programs might prevent ACL and groin injuries.
As with many youth and high school sports, athletic trainers should be present at lacrosse games. The rates of injuries in lacrosse are higher in games than in practices. This fact appears to exist at the high school level as well as elite levels. Athletic trainers are critical for evaluation and initial management of injuries. High schools should do whatever is necessary to have them at all lacrosse games (and practices, if possible). Tournaments at all levels should take steps to have athletic trainers and sports medicine orthopaedic surgeons and physicians available to assess and manage all lacrosse injuries.