Common Lacrosse Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Lacrosse is a rapidly growing, fast-paced sport that is physical in nature with both player-to-player contact and stick-to-player contact. Lacrosse is a sport that challenges the entire body and requires a great amount of sprinting, cutting, agility, and hand-eye coordination. Due to the competitive nature of the sport, athletes experience many injuries ranging from acute trauma to chronic overuse injuries.
Concussions are fairly common in lacrosse and usually occur from collisions with other players, getting hit in the head by a stick or the ball, or from a fall.
Shoulder injuries are one of the most common injuries seen in lacrosse. Impact injuries can lead to clavicle (collarbone) fractures, shoulder separations, and shoulder dislocations.
Knee injuries can occur in lacrosse by both contact or non-contact. The most common include ligament sprains, tears, and tendonitis of the patellar or quad tendons. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are fairly common in lacrosse and affects females more often than males due to anatomical factors.
Ankle sprains occur in lacrosse when players roll their ankles while running or stepping on other players. The most common ankle sprain is an inversion sprain, where the ankle rolls inward and is overstretched.
Muscle strains are typically acute injuries that occur due to inadequate warm-up and stretching. In lacrosse the most common muscles that are strained are the calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
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Although concussions are not always preventable, the best protection is to wear the appropriate headgear and equipment. In the event of a potential concussion it is important to recognize the symptoms and be seen by a qualified health professional for a physical and neurological examination. Below is a table of concussion symptoms:
The glenohumeral joint makes up part of the shoulder complex and is considered the most mobile, but least stable joint in the body. Due to the nature of the joint, it is susceptible to subluxations and dislocations. The best way to prevent such injuries is to have a strong and supportive shoulder complex. Below are some exercises to improve the strength and stability of your shoulder:
- Ball circles against the wall – Place a weighted ball against the wall, with your arm fully extended, press into the ball and perform 30 circles in both directions.
- Bird dogs – In the quadruped position with a neutral spine and neutral shoulder protraction. First contract your core muscles, then reach with your arm and opposite leg and hold for 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down and perform with the alternate side. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
- Seated press ups – In a seated position with your arms at your side and slightly behind you, first squeeze your shoulder blades together and maintain this position while you press up through your arms. Hold this position for about 5 seconds. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
The knee requires a large amount of proximal stability coming from the hip (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and hip rotators). The best way to prevent knee injuries is to have a well-balanced knee musculature (hamstrings & quadriceps) and substantial hip stability. Below are some great exercises to target these common weaknesses:
- 3 way hip – Place a resistance band around your ankles and while keeping your knee straight, kick out your leg in 3 different directions – forward, lateral, and backward. Make sure not to lean with your trunk as a compensation. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps in each direction.
- Single-leg Romanian deadlift (SL RDL) – While standing with good posture and with a very slight bend to the weight bearing knee, hinge forward at the hip. Keep a neutral spine and hips/shoulders square to the floor. Drive through the glutes/hamstrings and heel to return to standing. You can add a weight to your opposite arm to increase the challenge. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
- Lateral step downs – While standing on a box or step with one leg hanging off the side, slowly lower yourself down until your foot touches the ground, then drive through the glute and heel to go back into the standing position. Make sure your knee is aligned with your foot and not caving inwards. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
The ankle requires a good amount of stability and proprioception (balance) in order to react and correct itself from moving into excessive inversion (rolling the ankle in) or eversion (rolling the ankle out). It is also important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle to support it during lacrosse. Lastly, wearing an ankle brace or taping your ankle before playing will help prevent a sprain. Here are some good exercises to improve strength, stability, and balance in your ankle:
- SL balancing – Stand on one foot on an unstable surface such as a foam pad or a ½ foam roll. You can challenge yourself by balancing with eyes closed, for longer durations, or play catch with someone. Perform 3 sets of 30-60 seconds per side.
- Multiplanar heel raises – Standing on an edge, allow your heels to drop down then raise your heels all the way up. Perform with feet forward, feet outwards, and feet inwards to strengthen all the different fibers of the calves. Perform 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
- SL hopping drills – Standing on one leg, perform a lateral hop and land on the opposite leg and repeat. You can practice hopping in different directions such as forward, backward, lateral, and diagonal. Perform 3 sets of 8-10 hops.
Muscle strains occur when muscles are exerted to the point of tissue failure (tearing), typically when not properly warmed up, stretched, or when fatigued. The best way to prevent muscle strains is to strength train so they are stronger (through their full range), perform an adequate dynamic warm up, and stretch frequently. Below are some ways to stretch these muscles out:
- Hamstring stretch – While lying on the ground, put a strap around the foot of the leg to be stretched. While keeping the knee straight, raise the leg up until you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds and perform 3 times on each leg.
- Hip flexor stretch – In a half kneeling position, tuck your tailbone under (posterior pelvic tilt) until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Hold for 30 seconds and perform 3 times on each leg.
- Multiplanar calf stretch – With the back leg straight and heel on the ground, lean forward into a wall until a stretch is felt in the calf muscle. To target all the muscle fibers in the calves, cross the front leg across your body for a stretch, and move the front leg to the outside for another. Hold each position for 30 seconds and perform 3 times on each leg.
If you have sustained an injury playing lacrosse, participation should be stopped until you have been assessed by a qualified health professional. Minor injuries may only require rest, ice, compression, and elevation. More serious injuries may require an extended period of rest and rehabilitation. Physical therapists are highly trained to assess and treat all ranges sports injuries, improve overall function, and help the athlete return to their sport(s) without limitation. Contact NAKOA Fitness and Physical Therapy to speak to a physical therapist or schedule and evaluation.