Is Lacrosse A Dangerous Sport?

As a very fast-paced and intense game, lacrosse can cause some concerns among parents. Granted there’s physical contact between players, an aggressive defense done by checking and slashing and fast speed movement, parents want to know how safe or dangerous lacrosse is. 

After doing some research online, looking at available data and talking to some coaches, I wanted to help parents and players to get a good understanding of the potential risks and dangers associated with lacrosse. 

In short, lacrosse is not the most dangerous sport, but a sport with moderate risk. This means you do have a relatively low likelihood of getting severe injuries; the vast majority of injuries include minor scratches, bruises and sprains. However, this shouldn’t let your guard down as sports are always uncertain and risky.  

Parents, check out this post on everything to know as a lacrosse parent.

Is lacrosse more dangerous than football?

To answer this question with an informed and accurate response, I have done some digging. Lo and behold, there are several injury researches done on this topic, or more generally, to find out what sport is the most dangerous in men’s and women’s sports. 

In this post, I want to put the spotlight on one research report, click here to read the full report for more in regards to the methodology and terms.

Here’s the short version of everything you need to know about it:

First, we should redefine the term “risk”, which is often loosely defined as the rate of getting injured. However, a more accurate definition of risk is “the average probability of injury per athlete, an interpretation that is in line with modern epidemiologic concepts.” 

There are two important measures taken in this research, Estimated Injury Rate Per 1,000 Athlete-Exposures (IR) and Incidence Proportion (IP). IR refers to the number of injuries that occurred over the number of athletes participating in a game or practice. The idea here is to capture the rate of the number of injuries that occurred in relation to the number of athletes there are. 

IP is how the research, in fact, ranks the sports off of in terms of risk. What IP refers to is the number of injured athletes divided by the total number of athletes at risk spanning across a period of time, a season in this case.

Here are the numbers recorded from the research:

SportRisk Factor
Men’s Wrestling13.1
Women’s Gymnastics10.4
Men’s Ice Hockey9.5
Men’s Football9.2
Men’s Basketball8.5
Women’s Soccer8.4
Men’s Soccer8.0
Women’s Field Hockey6.5
Women’s Basketball6.5
Men’s Lacrosse6.5
Women’s Lacrosse6.5
Source from Lacrosse All Stars

As you can see, men’s lacrosse is ranked behind men’s football, which makes lacrosse less dangerous than football. Interestingly, mens and womens lacrosse are ranked next to each other in terms of risk factors and are behind major sports such as soccer, ice and field hockey.

What is the most common lacrosse injury

Although players are required to wear protective equipment to shield themselves from high risk and uncertain physical contact and impacts, some types of injuries are common. In both womens and mens lacrosse, non-contact ankle and knee ligament sprains are the most common lacrosse injuries. At the high school and college level, ankle sprains represent 21% of all reported injuries for women players and 16% for men players. 

It’s mainly due to the fact lacrosse involves a lot of aggressive directional changes and movements, mainly cutting and dodging. That puts a lot of pressure on the ankles and knees although this type of injury has no association with contact. Additionally, muscle strains of different parts of the body such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, and groin are also common. 

Speaking of contact induced injuries, head and face injury including concussion is also possible but very less likely. As more people are now aware of the negative ramifications of concussions, helmets are met with higher standards to prevent head injuries. 

Other not too frequent but worth mentioning injuries include bruises after heavy physical contacts, shin splints and foot blisters after a long and intensive running game.

If we look at the data again, it suggests 17.1% of the serious injuries in men’s lacrosse are ACL tears while 5.2% are concussions. Whereas, about 8.1% of the injuries in women’s lacrosse are serious. 

What this shows me is injuries in lacrosse are inevitable and unpredictable as are any sports, if you learn how to protect yourself by playing smart and correctly, it’s very possible to have an injury-free lacrosse career. Which is a perfect segway into my next topic, how to prevent yourself from getting injured. 

How to protect yourself from injury

Now you understand the danger and common injuries in lacrosse; it’s time to learn how to stay away from them as much as possible. 

First and foremost, learn the game. Whether you play mens or womens lacrosse, get familiar with the rules and adhere to them. Listen to your coach and understand brute force isn’t how you get good at lacrosse, it’s a game that underlines skills and speed. 

Make sure you invest in quality equipment that provides great protection and fits well. There’s no point of cheapen out on a few dollars and getting an injury that comes with an expensive healthcare bill. Don’t be lazy. Always wear proper protective gear.

Focus on delivering a good warmup and stretching often. Prior to a game, warm up properly with moderate intensity to get a sense of your body condition. If some part of your body doesn’t feel well, be communicative with your coach always. In fact, you should communicate with your coach, trainer and parents often about your physical and mental health. 

In addition, stretching as always. Many injuries can be avoided if players did enough stretching. In preparation for a new season, focus on condition training. Maintain your body weight year-round to minimize fluctuation. 

It’s totally ok to feel burnt out after an intense and stressful season. No players can keep going without proper rest and break away from the sport to reset. Taking some time off is a great way to release pressure and let your body heal and recharge.

Conclusion

I hope this post has given you an unbiased and objective take on the question, “is lacrosse a dangerous sport.” One thing to keep in mind is that danger can also be subjective depending on who you ask. If you don’t feel comfortable with physical sports, lacrosse can still be a dangerous sport. However, if your child plays football simultaneously, lacrosse is not nearly as risky and dangerous. 

At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself or help to make the decision with your child if lacrosse is the right sport. Let me know of what you think in the comment section below.

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Adrian James
I am Adrian from Florida. After playing lacrosse for 15 years, I decided to start this website to share my journey and knowledge to help people get better at lacrosse.

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