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A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that U-11 ice hockey players who played in an Alberta, Canada, league that allowed body checking were more than three times as likely to suffer concussions and other serious injuries compared with kids who played in an Ontario league that banned body checking. Now, the mechanisms of injury in lacrosse are a bit different than those in ice hockey, since players skate on a rock hard sheet of ice surrounded by solid dasher boards. But the possibility that body contact may expose young lacrosse players to increased risk of serious injury is certainly worth careful reflection.
On a related note, US Lacrosse has initiated discussions with the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee and the NFHS Boys’ Lacrosse Rules Committee about establishing a specific rule that would severely penalize a player who uses his helmet or arm to make contact with an opponent’s helmet. Spearing – when a player lowers his head and initiates contact with the top of his helmet – has long been illegal because of the high risk of spinal injury it creates. More and more, however, players are making initial contact with their body and following through with their forehead and/or arm into an opponent’s helmet. This is the type of contact that is not consistent with the intent of the rules and, accordingly, equipment was never designed to protect against. It significantly increases the potential for a concussion injury – both to the player receiving the blow and the player initiating the contact – and has no place in the game. From what I have seen and heard, few players are being taught how to properly and safely initiate body contact with an opponent, and US Lacrosse is now focused on developing that component of our coaching education curricula. I’ll keep you posted on these efforts.
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