Preventing Lacrosse Injuries

“The beauty of being a lacrosse player is that you recognize that the game has given you more than you could ever possibly give back,” reflects Luke Hansen, Summit High School’s Boys Varsity Lacrosse coach. Hansen describes the quickly growing sport to as, “A combination of many sports; it requires the coordination and toughness of hockey, the strategy and free play of soccer, the fine athleticism and technique of basketball, and the raw power of football. There is an art to lacrosse in that no one handles the stick in the same way and, in a way, every player’s personality comes through in their stick skills.” The combination of these skills, athletic ability, and ambition are three of the main ingredients helping to torpedo this sport from one that can be generally found east of the Mississippi to a sport that elementary students in Bend can now participate in.

Hansen has been immersed in the sport for “Around 10 years now…” and is still completely obsessed. There is no other game that combines fast-paced play, high scoring, overall team strategy, players of all sizes, and offers great rewards for athleticism such as speed, quickness, or power. Lacrosse caught my attention when I realized that being the best player on the field wasn’t about being the fastest or strongest, it was about being the smartest player on the field.”

Like most sports, lacrosse is filled with intelligent student athletes, but it is also a more high risk sport than others out there. Some of the leading injuries are more minor such as scrapes, bruises, and those related to fatigue. The more severe occur in ankles, shoulders, collar bones, and knees, as well as concussions. “The awareness and treatment of concussions has increased significantly over the last five years, and I have no doubt coaches are making better efforts to protect their athletes from the long-term consequences of repeated head injury.”

ACL injuries are a common orthopedic injury in lacrosse, especially in female athletes. ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament and it serves as a stabilizing structure in the knee. Minimize the risk for injury by focusing on muscle balance, learning how to land properly after a jump, performing balance exercises, and doing functional (instead of weight) strengthening (i.e. lunges, single leg squats and step ups).

The sport is very physical and the players are required to wear several items of safety equipment such as a mouth piece and (for boys) a helmet. “The data clearly shows a proper fitting mouthpiece protects your teeth, but also protects the head and brain from disaster during violent collisions. Like any full contact sport, injuries can and do occur. Proper stretching, (proper) weight lifting, and the appropriate amount of rest are critical to reducing the chance of injury,” says Hansen when discussing the safety of athletes on the field.

In sports media recently, some of the current leading lacrosse helmet producers have been under the microscope for needing to create a much improved helmet. As the sport’s popularity grows so can the potential for injuries. Hansen agrees, stating that more research and development around helmet technology would be a welcomed feat. “Stick technology has increased significantly over the last decade and so has helmet technology, but I would like to see a concentrated effort to advance materials used in lacrosse helmets.”

In 2013, US Lacrosse joined the National Sports Concussion Coalition in “…ongoing efforts to make the sport as safe as possible for all participants…” as part of their determination to continue the research and implications of concussions and precautions athletes can take. As youth involvement has exploded over the past several years so have efforts to make safety one of the main priorities for these young players. Although recent studies show lower extremity (knee, foot, and ankle) injuries as the most common among most youth players, concussions and their long term effects are still on everyone’s mind. There is no doubt that continued research and progress in the helmet industry will only add to the positives this game brings to the lives of young athletes. Hansen refers to his team and the seniors he now coaches, “I believe this year’s senior class for Summit began playing in elementary school… The boys I coach constantly talk about their favorite youth team memories.”