Younger boys playing lacrosse are more likely to get concussions, or other serious injuries, than teenage or collegiate players. These were the findings released this month from Injury Incidence in Youth, High School and NCAA Men’s Lacrosse, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What Leads to Lacrosse-Related Head Injuries
The study examined ratio of injuries to minutes of athletic exposure, including both practice and game time, by observing 21 youth boys’ lacrosse teams, 22 high school boys’ teams, and 20 collegiate men’s teams.
What they found: for every 1,000 minutes of athletic exposure, there were 10.3 injuries among younger boys, 5.3 for high school boys and 4.7 for college players. How this broke down in terms of concussions: there were 0.7 concussions among young boys, but just 0.3 among high school and college players.
One of the study’s lead authors, Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD, MS, the director of MedStar Sports Medicine Research Center and Associate Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, tells Parentology, “Lacrosse injuries are not as common as football injuries, but injury rates are comparable to other collision sports, like hockey.”
Also reported were injuries keeping boys off the field for more than 24 hours as more common among college players. Overall, younger players had a higher rate of injury.
The study noted injuries among younger players often involved equipment, as opposed to bodily contact. At the same time, findings suggest younger players are getting more medical attention than older players, or seeking it out more frequently.
“It’s still unusual for most youth leagues to have access to athletic trainers during regular season play, as opposed to high school (50-60%) and collegiate (~100%) levels of play,” Lincoln says. “For this study, we were able to provide certified athletic trainers (ATs) at youth leagues to evaluate and treat injuries while recording the data.”
Lincoln’s take, “It may be that youth players were more likely to report injuries to the ATs, given this new resource that was now available to them, whereas comparable injuries at other levels may not have been reported. Also, younger athletes may seek care more often for time loss injuries than athletes at higher levels of play.”
Bruce Griffin, director for the Center Sport Science with U.S. Lacrosse tells Parentology the national governing body of lacrosse invests significant resources in research to help create the safest game possible for athletes at all ages. Coaches can participate in a certification program to learn how to teach the game safely based on the age of the athlete. He recommends, “Parents can be proactive by making sure their team or league requires these best practices.”
The majority of injuries focused on in the study occurred during games versus practice sessions. Griffin says these findings may be typical, because contact typically occurs less in a practice setting.
Lincoln viewpoint towards reducing injury is based on level of play. For younger athletes, he suggests, “We need to focus on coaching and officiating approaches to reduce injuries from stick contact.” For teens, he says, “While at the high school level, we should be monitoring physical load/playing time across one or more teams to reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions.” Following this, Lincoln says, “At the collegiate level, we should focus on conditioning, flexibility and strengthening to reduce the risk of sprains and strains most commonly occurring.”
Griffin recommends parents be proactive when monitoring any sport in which their child is involved. “Be a wise consumer, spending time researching up front, as you would for any other part of your child’s life.”
What he emphasizes, “Sports provide many benefits including learning teamwork, physical activity, and new friends. [Just] make sure the organization you trust your children with is doing everything possible to make it a positive experience.”
Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD, MS, the director of MedStar Sports Medicine Research Center and Associate Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center
Bruce Griffin, director for the Center Sport Science with U.S. Lacrosse
Injury Incidence in Youth, High School and NCAA Men’s Lacrosse, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics
Safety Practices recommended by U.S. Lacrosse
Rules and best practices information from U.S. Lacrosse
Information for parents from U.S. Lacrosse and re: athlete development.