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Common Injuries in Lacrosse

Lacrosse has rapidly grown to become one of the fastest youth team sports in the United States. With nearly 316,000 high school players, including a significant number of female athletes, the sport’s popularity continues to rise. However, along with its growth comes an increase in the number of injuries among young athletes. While most injuries are minor, some can be serious, with common issues including sprains, strains, contusions, fractures, and concussions. Given the sport’s dynamic nature, which involves cutting and contact, the risk of injury is inherent, with a higher rate observed during games and competitive play compared to practice sessions. Understanding these injury patterns and risk factors is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of young lacrosse players.

Women’s vs. Men’s Lacrosse

When it comes to lacrosse injuries, there are notable differences between male and female players. Males generally have a higher injury rate compared to females, with body contact and stick checking being significant contributing factors. Emergency room visits for lacrosse injuries are predominantly male, accounting for 75% of cases. Boys have a significantly higher risk of sustaining fractures, with a 3 to 5 times greater risk compared to girls. They also experience more shoulder, arm, elbow, and upper leg injuries. Head and face injuries, often resulting from checks, are common among males, along with a higher rate of concussions. Despite these statistics, only 50% of concussions are reported, emphasizing the importance of injury awareness, and reporting in male players.

On the other hand, female lacrosse players tend to experience more non-contact and overuse injuries. In high school, lower extremity injuries account for 56% of all injuries among female players. Although females experience fewer concussions than males, they are more prone to facial fractures. Injuries to the foot/ankle, head, face, and wrist/hand are more likely to require surgery in female players compared to their male counterparts. Additionally, low back pain is often associated with a lack of sound mechanics in female players, highlighting the importance of proper training and injury prevention strategies specific to the female lacrosse athlete.

Running Related Injuries 

Running-related injuries in adolescent and pediatric athletes, particularly in sports like lacrosse, often involve sprains, fractures, and other lower extremity injuries. Sprains commonly affect the ankle and occasionally the knee, with ankle sprains being the most prevalent. Ankle sprains, including inversion and eversion sprains, occur due to the stress placed on the ankle joint during running, cutting, and sudden changes in direction. These injuries vary in severity, with most being minor and treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). However, ankle sprains can have lasting consequences, with 12% to 47% being recurrent and an increased risk of a second sprain for at least one year after the initial injury. Other potential complications include injury to the talus and peroneal tendons, chronic ankle instability, and early osteoarthritis. Proper warm-up, stretching, strengthening exercises, and wearing appropriate footwear can help prevent ankle sprains and other lower extremity injuries in lacrosse players.

Fractures, particularly stress fractures, are also common in lacrosse athletes and may affect various bones in the lower extremities, including the tibia, metatarsals, fibula, navicular, and calcaneus. These injuries may require rest, immobilization, or surgery depending on their severity. To prevent fractures, athletes should gradually increase the intensity and duration of their training, practice proper running and cutting techniques, and wear appropriate footwear. Additionally, listening to their bodies, resting when needed, and seeking medical attention if they experience pain or discomfort are crucial for injury prevention and management in adolescent and pediatric athletes. When ankle sprains or other lower extremity injuries occur, it’s essential to monitor for signs of severe injury, such as difficulty walking, deformity, severe pain, and swelling. If symptoms persist or worsen, it’s advisable to seek evaluation from a pediatric orthopedic surgeon to prevent long-term complications and ensure a safe return to play.

Preventing Throwing Injuries 

In addition to player-to-player contact injuries, lacrosse players are also at risk of throwing-related shoulder injuries. The repetitive overhead throwing motion in lacrosse can lead to overuse injuries such as rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement, and even stress fractures. To prevent these injuries, players should focus on proper throwing mechanics, including arm position, follow-through, and body rotation. Additionally, incorporating shoulder strengthening exercises, stretching routines, and adequate rest into training regimens can help reduce the risk of throwing-related shoulder injuries and ensure players stay healthy and on the field.

Overuse Injuries 

In addition to acute injuries, overuse injuries are a significant concern for adolescent and pediatric lacrosse players. These injuries result from repeated mechanical stress to cartilage, tendons, or bones, exceeding their healing capacity. Overuse injuries are much more common than acute injuries and typically affect the lower extremities. Conditions such as Osgood-Schlatter disease, Sinding-Larsen-Johansson syndrome, osteochondritis dissecans, and stress fractures are frequently seen in young athletes, particularly during the adolescent growth spurt. Overuse injuries can have lasting consequences, affecting the growth plate and potentially leading to long-term complications. Contributing factors to overuse injuries include the athlete’s previous level of conditioning, inappropriate equipment or footwear, improper sports technique, biomechanical inefficiencies, muscle asymmetries, psychological factors, and prior injuries. Coaches, parents, and athletes must recognize the signs of overuse injuries and take preventive measures to ensure the long-term health and well-being of young lacrosse players.

Preventing Overuse Injuries

To prevent overuse injuries in lacrosse, players, coaches, and parents should prioritize several key strategies. High-quality coaching and officiating can help control contact during play, reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Additionally, wearing proper equipment, including well-fitted footwear and protective gear, is essential. Players should always warm up before practices and games, stay hydrated, and maintain adequate nutrition to support their physical demands. During the off-season, it’s crucial to focus on rest and balance conditioning to prevent overuse injuries. Coaches and parents should also be vigilant in assessing signs of overuse injuries and encourage players to seek medical attention if they experience pain or discomfort. By implementing these preventive measures, players can enjoy the sport safely and reduce their risk of overuse injuries on the lacrosse field.

Other types of injuries 

Shoulder Injuries 

In lacrosse, shoulder injuries are among the most prevalent, affecting both male and female players. Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries, shoulder dislocations, labral tears, and clavicle fractures are all too common. These injuries often occur due to player-to-player contact, a frequent aspect of the sport. The AC joint, where the collarbone meets the highest point of the shoulder blade, is particularly susceptible to injury, and forceful impacts during aggressive play can lead to AC joint injuries, shoulder dislocations, and labral tears. Similarly, clavicle fractures are not uncommon, particularly due to high-impact collisions or falls. While falls to the ground can cause these injuries, player-to-player contact remains the primary mechanism for such trauma in lacrosse.

Wrist, Hand, & Finger Injuries 

Additionally, wrist, hand, and finger injuries are prevalent among lacrosse players. Contusions, fractures, and ligament injuries are frequently reported, with sticks being the primary cause of such injuries. Surprisingly, even though male players wear gloves, these injuries are more common in men. The high-speed, physical nature of the sport means that players often sustain injuries to the hands and wrists during play. Proper protective gear and adherence to safety protocols are essential for reducing the risk of these injuries and ensuring the safety and well-being of lacrosse players.

Ensuring You Have The Proper Equipment 

Preventing injuries in lacrosse requires a multifaceted approach that includes proper coaching and player education. High-quality coaching and officiating are essential for controlling contact and reducing the risk of injury during play. Additionally, wearing proper equipment, including helmets, pads, and mouthguards, can help protect players from serious injury. It’s crucial for players to always warm up before practices and games, stay hydrated, and maintain adequate nutrition to support their physical demands. During the off-season, athletes should focus on rest and balance conditioning to prevent overuse injuries. Understanding the difference between minor discomfort and serious injury can be challenging, so players should always listen to their bodies and seek medical attention if they experience pain or discomfort. By taking these preventive measures, players can enjoy the game safely and reduce their risk of injury on the lacrosse field.

When To See The Pediatric Orthopedic Center 

If you suspect your child might have symptoms of an overuse sports injury, contact The Pediatric Orthopedic Center at (973) 538-7700 or by filling out the request an appointment form.

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Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


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Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


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