Stay in the game: Tips for avoiding lacrosse injuries

A small, hard rubber ball…long sticks…and the speed of soccer with the contact of hockey. Can you think of a more injury-inviting sport than lacrosse?

Lacrosse continues to gain in popularity, making it one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States. U.S. Lacrosse, the governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse, estimates nearly 772,000 athletes play the game nationwide.

The more people who play, the more likely injuries will occur. These injuries are not all sustained during games. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), athletes are three to five times more likely to be injured in a game than in a practice. However, athletes are twice as likely to sustain injury in preseason practice versus regular season play.

Most common injuries

  • More than 50 percent: Lower extremities (hips down to toes)
  • 25 percent: Upper extremities (shoulder to fingers)
  • 15 percent: Head and neck
  • Less than 10 percent: Trunk and back

Ankle sprains, knee ligament or cartilage injuries, and concussions are the three most common lacrosse injuries. All of these injuries can sideline players and can even end a player’s season.

Rules are changing

While rules have been created to help protect athletes near the crease (area surrounding the goal on a lacrosse field), this is the typical “hot-spot” for injuries on the field. Preseason “no pad” practices also help decrease injuries. These practices condition players before contact occurs on the field to decrease the high preseason injury rate. Many programs can help decrease knee injury rates, especially in female athletes who are most prone to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

Injury prevention tips

  • Get a sports physical exam from your physician.
  • Train for strength and flexibility, both in and off season.
  • Know the rules and play safe.
  • Wear protective equipment properly and without modifications.
  • Warm up and cool down…every time.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.
  • Use proper techniques involved in the sport.
  • Eat properly to allow for maximum performance and optimal recovery.
  • Take off at least one day per week to allow the body to recover.
  • Understand your body and limits. Don’t push through pain.

We’re often taught to “play hard,” but the most important lesson is to play smart.

Benjamin Petre, MD, Anne Arundel Medical Center

By Benjamin Petre, MD, orthopedic surgeon with AAMC Orthopedics.

Originally published March 22, 2016. Last updated Aug. 13, 2018.

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