With Lacrosse Exploding in Popularity, SOS Encourages Players to Keep it Safe

sports medicine doctors near syracuse ny for lacrosse image of lacrosse team

What is Lacrosse?

Lacrosse has an interesting origin story, one of which many people are unaware. The game was created by Native Americans; most likely, it began with the Haudenosaunee, an alliance of six nations from the Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Tuscarora tribes, spanning Canada and the northeast region of North America, including Central New York. It is the oldest organized sport in North America, with the earliest games having occurred as early as 1100 AD. Early versions of lacrosse matches played by Native American nations included 100 to 1,000 men or more using wooden sticks, sometimes with net baskets or pockets attached, and small, deer hide-wrapped balls. Borderless fields could span miles, and games could last days. It was played to prepare them for war, and it was also a social event where tribes would get together for trade and sport. It was sometimes used to settle disputes.

How Dangerous is Lacrosse?

Whether lacrosse had its origins geographically close to Central New York, we know it has become the fastest-growing sport in North America, with nearly one million people now participating in organized lacrosse on an annual basis. Overall, lacrosse is considered a moderate risk sport in which the vast majority of injuries are minor strains, sprains and bruises. According to statistics published by the US Military Academies, lacrosse players suffer injuries at a rate approximately two-thirds that of soccer players; one-half that of hockey players, and about one-tenth that of football and rugby players.

What Sports Medicine Doctors near Syracuse NY Say About Lacrosse Injury Prevention

Todd Battaglia, MD, MS, FAANA and other members of the SOS Sports Medicine team says despite these stats, lacrosse players still need to take precautions to prevent injury. “I see lacrosse players very frequently in my clinic, particularly during the spring season. But now that many athletes play their sport year-round, I often also see lacrosse injuries in the summer, fall and even winter (during indoor lacrosse season.) Each sport has its own risks and its own particular types of injuries. In lacrosse, which involves a lot of running and cutting, we do tend to see a lot of lower body injuries such as ankle sprains, ACL tears, and so on. But because it is a true contact sport, we also see significant upper body injuries such as clavicle (collarbone) fractures, dislocated shoulders, etc.”

What Lacrosse Injuries Can Sports Medicine Doctors Help With?

Dr. Battaglia often sees patients presenting with ACL injuries from lacrosse, particularly women's lacrosse. Overall, females tend to tear their ACLs anywhere from 7-9 times more frequently than males, and women's lacrosse today is a very high speed, very high-energy game that unfortunately can result in relatively high rates of ACL injury. “Thankfully, when an athlete tears his/her ACL, current surgical techniques are sufficiently successful that it is typically not a career-ending injury, but it certainly is a season-ending injury and can be associated with significant mental distress in addition to the physical distress,” says Dr. Battaglia.

ACL Tear Prevention Recommendations by Sports Medicine Doctors

“Although ACL tears cannot be prevented, there is some evidence that specific preseason exercise programs can somewhat lower the risk. And if you are unlucky enough to tear your ACL, you should ensure that your surgeon is one who performs many ACL surgeries, who has expertise managing the other injuries that often accompany an ACL tear (meniscus and cartilage injuries) and who is used to caring for high-level athletes.”

Tips for Injury Prevention

  • Know the rules - Although boys' lacrosse allows significant contact, it is still a game that prioritizes finesse and skill. Unprotected hits have no place in the game. For girls, rules which promote a free style of play and limited contact must be adhered to by coaches, officials, and players.
  • Maintain open communication - Discuss your goals and health concerns with your coach, trainer, parents, and health provider to ensure the right steps are made to enjoy the game and to prevent and treat injuries.
  • Be proactive in your conditioning - Stay in shape year-round. Warm up properly by thoroughly stretching and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts. Cross-training avoids excessive, constant stress on the same muscles over and over again, and significantly lowers injury rates. Hydrate regularly and get plenty of rest.
  • Wear the right equipment - Protective equipment should be appropriately sized. Do not modify mouth pieces or gloves for comfort.
  • Take a break - All lacrosse players should have at least one or two days a week and one or two months a year away from lacrosse to stay fresh and prevent burnout and overuse injuries.

“The most important things that athletes can do to prevent injury are to make sure they are adequately conditioned, follow well-designed strengthening programs, gradually increase their activity as they return from the off season, and to give any injuries appropriate attention,” comments Dr. Battaglia. “In addition, particularly in lacrosse, it is important to wear appropriate footwear and use recommended protective equipment (shoulder pads, elbow pads, helmets, protective eyewear).”

Orthopedic Urgent Care and Sports Medicine Doctors near Syracuse NY

Be certain to follow the recommended precautions, but should an injury occur, SOS has many resources for injured players, with a strong Sports Medicine team available and SOS PLUS After Hours Care. Our SOS Sports Medicine team offers same day appointments at SOS locations around CNY, and for urgent injuries that happen weeknights and weekends, SOS PLUS walk-in acute ortho injury care is available.

For same day Sports Medicine appointments, call 315-251-3100 and dial extension 3449 on weekdays between the hours of 8AM-4:30PM.

For urgent acute weeknight and weekend orthopedic injuries, walk-in to SOS PLUS located at 5719 Widewaters Parkway in DeWitt and open 5PM-8:30PM on weeknights and 9AM-1PM on weekends.

*Sources: Professional Box Lacrosse Association, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM)