Lacrosse – a game that dates back to the 1100s when Native Canadians fielded 100 to 1,000 men on playing fields that spanned several kilometers — is the fastest-growing youth club sport among boys and girls in Pennsylvania, according to US Lacrosse Magazine. A new study released in the June 2019 issue of Pediatrics looks sat the injury rates among the boys’ version of the sport, and finds that the youngest players have the greatest number of injuries.
Boys’ lacrosse differs from girls’ lacrosse with a slightly smaller field, two fewer players on the field, and full-body contact permitted; the only checking permitted in the girls’ version of the sport is to try to knock the ball out of an opponent’s possession. Boys have significantly more protective gear, with pads for the forearms, chest, shoulders and back, and also helmets with masks. Girls are only required to wear goggles, mouth guards and gloves.
The study, “Injury Incidence in Youth, High School, and NCAA Men’s Lacrosse,” compared injury rates and causes among youth, high school and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) male lacrosse athletes for the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons. The results from the study showed that younger players have higher overall injury rates than high school and NCAA players and that most of their injuries are equipment-related.
While the overall concussion rate in lacrosse is low, the study also showed that younger players tend to experience more concussions. When examining injuries for high school and NCAA players, researchers found that those lacrosse players are more likely to experience overuse injuries or injuries that require time off for rest or recovery and are less likely to experience equipment-related injuries. The authors pose that the reason for higher injury rates in the youth group could be that players are still learning basic skills, such as body positioning and stick gameplay, and as players develop these skills their injury risk decreases.
The authors conclude that the study reinforces that injury prevention in lacrosse should be tailored to the type of injuries common at each level of the sport, such as stick and collision injuries for younger players, and overuse and inflammation injuries for older players.