Injury rates among NCAA men’s lacrosse players appear to be on a downward trajectory. That was one of the primary conclusions put forth in a new research study recently published in Injury Epidemiology that tracked injuries by collegiate varsity men’s lacrosse players over a span of six years, from 2009-2015.

The researchers saw a significant reduction in injury rates when comparing their data and findings to earlier published works. Two members of the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee, Dr. Shane Caswell, PhD, of George Mason University, and Dr. Andrew Lincoln, ScD, director of the MedStar Health Sports Medicine Research Center, were among the researchers.

The full study can be accessed here.

Overall, the injury rate over the course of the study was 5.29 per 1,000 athlete-exposures (AE). An exposure was defined as one athlete participating in one sanctioned practice or competition in which he was exposed to the possibility of athletic injury. Weightlifting and conditioning sessions were not included.

Injuries were categorized as either severe, which resulted in time loss from practice and competition for at least 24 hours, or non-severe, which were non-time loss.

A comparable study released in 2007 utilized data from 1988-2004 and reflected an injury rate of 12.58/1,000 AE for time-loss injuries, which was significantly higher than the time-loss injury rate of 6.43/1,000 AE for the current study.

In total, 1,055 men’s lacrosse injuries were reported during the 2009-2015 study period, with data submitted directly by the athletic trainers at 25 varsity teams electronically through the NCAA’s Injury Surveillance Program. Participating teams represented all three levels of NCAA competition – Division I, II and III.

A reportable injury was defined as having occurred as a result of participation in a sanctioned practice or competition, and required attention from an athletic trainer or physician. Only varsity level practices and competition were considered.

Other findings from the study:

• Injury rates were higher in competitions (12.35/1,000 AE) than in practices (3.90/1,000 AE).

• Most injuries were to the lower extremity (58.3%), particularly the ankle (14.1%) in competitions and the upper leg (14.3%) in practice.

• Sprains and strains were the most common diagnoses in both competition and practice.

• The most common injury mechanism in competition was player contact (32.8%), while the most common injury mechanism in practice was non-contact (40.0%).

• Ankle sprains were the most common injury in both competitions (12.8%) and practices (11.2%).

• Concussions accounted for 7.4% of the diagnosis in competition injuries and 4.2% of the practice injuries.

• Among practices, the injury rate was higher in the preseason (5.38/1000 AE) than the regular season (3.18/1000 AE).

• Muscle spasms were the diagnoses that accounted for the largest proportion of non-time loss injury in both competition (88.9%) and practice (76.0%). The diagnoses with the largest proportion of severe injuries were fractures.

The researchers surmised that the decrease in injury rates may be associated with several factors, including equipment advances and rule changes designed to increase athlete health and safety.

Equipment interventions include lighter helmets and titanium alloys being used in shafts of lacrosse sticks. Other interventions include advances in injury prevention exercise programs to help reduce injury risk, as well as the more prevalent use of ankle bracing and taping.

One of the conclusions cited in the study is that the “continued development and implementation of injury prevention programming is necessary to further reduce injury risk, particularly related to lower extremity injuries and concussions."

US Lacrosse Center for Sport Science

The Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse launched last year with a goal to expand, broaden and elevate the safety initiatives that the national governing body has been committed to since its creation in 1998.

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