The sport of lacrosse has been around for a very long time, but recent interest in America has spiked in recent years. Lacrosse started to climb in popularity in 1999 and, by 2001, there were approximately 250,000 participants. By 2014, there were more than 800,000 participants across the United States, and the number only continues to grow. It has been reported that while the majority of interest has spiked in children 15 years and under, high schools and university-level programs are also gaining speed with the sport.
There was a total of 42 four-year colleges that adopted varsity level lacrosse teams in 2014, and 29 new programs launched in 2016. The northeastern region has been the most active for the sport, but interest continues to grow both in the U.S. and Canada as well.
With the growing attraction to lacrosse, the skills and level of competition have grown as a result. Kids are starting earlier and training harder to make sure they land their spot on one of the local teams, in hopes of one day making it to the National Lacrosse League (NLL).
With all of the competition and hype around the contact sport, it’s no surprise that injuries are a part of the equation as well. Those who want to protect themselves and lengthen their season should consider the following protective gear for lacrosse players.
Lacrosse players must wear a protective helmet equipped with a face mask, chin pad, and a cupped, four-point chin strap fastened to all four hookups at all times.
Helmets are the number-one protection against head injuries and are critical to keeping players safe from contact, falls, balls, and lacrosse sticks. Each helmet must be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
A mouthpiece is a mandatory piece of equipment, which is meant to protect the mouth of the players as well as provide extra cushion in the event of contact and hits. All lacrosse players are required to wear one and should be provided with multiple pieces at the beginning of the season.
Gloves are also a necessary piece of protective gear for lacrosse players, especially since many of the athletes playing will be hit multiple times in the hands by sticks and other players. Similar to a hockey glove, the lacrosse glove is made of a durable, thick material that allows them to easily manage a stick without having to sacrifice safety.
Each of the players on a lacrosse team, except for the goaltender, is required to wear protective shoulder pads. These pads are critical to safety, as they are often the only defense against hard hits, falls, and aggressive contact. Other pieces of protective gear that are not mandatory but are suggested include rib pads and protective cups.
In terms of the goalie, athletes who play in this position are required to wear throat protectors and chest protectors, as well as the regulatory helmet, gloves, mouthpiece, and protective cup.
As mentioned, there are quite a few common injuries in lacrosse that athletes benefit from protective gear. These common injuries include ankle sprains, head and face contusions, knee sprains, lower back pain, and wrist fractures. While some of these injuries are unavoidable, athletes can decrease their chances of injury by wearing supportive gear, as well as extra tools for protection such as braces.
Bracing works to protect specific areas of the body, by applying warmth, compression, and specific ranges of mobility. For lacrosse players, quality back braces, wrist braces, and knee braces are some of the options to avoid common injuries.
The great thing about body bracing is that there are lots of different styles available to meet the needs of the individual. Whether a player wants basic compression and breathability on their wrist or a structured knee brace to protect a previous injury, there is something for everyone. Bracing may provide protection on its own, but it is best for athletes to combine elements such as proper gear, warming up, strength training, and hydration with their brace to ensure the maximum level of protection.
Lacrosse has made its way into the heart of athletes and fans across the United States, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down anytime soon. For those athletes who are currently playing or plan to play lacrosse this season, it’s important to recognize the common injuries associated with lacrosse and the options available for safety. Consider the protective gear mentioned to protect yourself throughout your next lacrosse season.