This is the first in a series of blogs, sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, highlighting safety initiatives that seek to enhance the lacrosse experience. 

Last August, US Lacrosse announced rule changes and revisions for women’s lacrosse that were effective for the 2017 girls’ high school lacrosse season. US Lacrosse writes the rules for high school girls’ lacrosse, and those rules are endorsed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Arguably the most noteworthy revision involved Rule 5, Section 2, governing the draw. Beginning in 2017, players below the restraining lines on the draw were not allowed to cross the lines until possession had been established. 

This rule change was influenced by concerns that the number of players contesting the ball, either in the air or on the ground, following the draw often leads to a scenario where an excessive number of players were competing in close physical contact.

“By limiting the number of players attempting to put the ball in play after the draw, we trust that there will be fewer fouls and that the ball will more quickly be put into play,” said Laurette Payette, a member of the US Lacrosse Women’s Officials Subcommittee, in reaction to the new rule. 

A player leaving the restraining line early, before possession is established, shall be penalized.

By all accounts, after one season of play, this new rule has been overwhelmingly well received. 

“Based on our annual rules survey, 75 percent of the feedback on this rule change has been positive,” said Caitlin Kelley, senior manager for the women’s game at US Lacrosse. “One survey respondent called it the ‘best recent rule change’ in women’s lacrosse.”

Feedback from coaches indicates that the rule accomplished one of its primary purposes, which was to clean up the play in the midfield.

“The rules that govern the game play an important role in both safety and growth,” said Kristen Murray, chair of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors and a girls’ high school coach. “We continue to look for opportunities to simplify the rules to make it easier for officials to make calls and to improve the flow of the game.” 

One further indication of the widespread support for the draw rule revision is that the NCAA has now adopted the same restraining line limitation, beginning with the 2018 season. 

“Having continuity on this rule across all levels of the game is a positive thing,” Kelley said.

Kelley notes that US Lacrosse will continue to monitor injury statistics, especially as they relate to the changes in the draw.

“We don’t have enough data yet to make any conclusions, but we will continue to collect injury data and use that information to help make future adjustments to enhance the safety of the game,” she said.

US Lacrosse stresses that having age-appropriate rules that govern play is one essential element in producing a safe playing experience. Having certified coaches with sport-specific education, utilizing trained and certified game officials, and the use of proper protective equipment are all critical safety components as well.

“The rule changes and approved revisions are a continued effort to minimize the risk of injury in girls’ lacrosse,” said Kathy Westdorp, chair of the NFHS girls’ lacrosse rules committee and a member of the US Lacrosse Women’s Rules Subcommittee.  

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