As the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, youth and high school sports have served a role in helping to improve the mental and physical health of young athletes.

Earlier this year, US Lacrosse issued a set of Return to Play recommendations to assist lacrosse organizations throughout the country with sport-specific guidance to mitigate infection risks as competition returned. In conjunction with directives from local public health agencies, many community lacrosse organizations began resuming activities in the summer using these recommendations. Additionally, over 25 US Lacrosse sanctioned tournament operators utilized our guidance at more than 100 youth events over the summer and fall.

Still, there are parts of the country where the sport has not returned. One of the barriers to lacrosse returning in some states is that boys’ lacrosse has been classified as a “high risk” sport due to physical contact being permitted in the sport. In some of these states, girls’ lacrosse has been classified as a “moderate risk” sport.

While boys’ and girls’ lacrosse allow varying degrees of contact, US Lacrosse has concluded that these differences do not place boys at a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than girls. The US Lacrosse Sport Science & Safety committee has classified both versions of outdoor lacrosse as presenting a moderate risk for COVID-19 infection because both disciplines are played outdoors, the games are fast-moving, players don’t handle the ball with their bare hands, no equipment is shared and, even when athletes are within close proximity to one another, movement is constant. Additionally, infrequent periods of extended closeness can be easily eliminated through rule modifications.

US Lacrosse has directed advocacy efforts at leaders in these jurisdictions to provide additional education about the nature of the sport, and asked them to reconsider their classification of boys’ lacrosse as a “high risk” sport so that young athletes may reap the benefits of lacrosse participation.

While there remains an inherent risk in participating in sports, US Lacrosse feels that the COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies included in its Return to Play recommendations have served as a roadmap for programs and event operators who seek to provide safer playing opportunities during this pandemic. The organization is committed to helping advocate for athletes so that they may return to the field in a safe manner.