Following the springtime shutdown of virtually all levels of lacrosse, US Lacrosse has been focused on taking the necessary steps required to bring the sport back safely.

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.

More recently, the organization’s efforts have targeted towards working with organizations that have placed the sport, usually boys’ lacrosse, into a “high-risk” category for COVID-19 transmission. This designation is limiting the ability for the sport to be played.

Many of those classifications have come as a result of the National Federation of State High School Associations decision to include boys’ lacrosse into the high-risk category alongside football, wrestling, competitive cheer and dance. Girls’ lacrosse was placed in the moderate-risk category along with sports such as basketball, ice hockey and soccer.

US Lacrosse enjoys a strong, collaborative working relationship with the NFHS and began its efforts to have the “high-risk” designation reconsidered by the NFHS back in June. Those efforts continue today, but the NFHS has yet to change the classification.

Earlier today, the NCAA released its latest return-to-sport guidelines and classified both men’s and women’s lacrosse as intermediate-risks sports. US Lacrosse shared its position paper on the subject with the NCAA in advance of the organization making its current classifications.

“The US Lacrosse Sports Science & Safety Executive Committee supports boys’ and girls’ lacrosse being grouped together in the moderate-risk category,” said Dr. Gene Hong, chair of the Sports Science & Safety Committee and co-chair of the US Lacrosse Return to Play medical advisory group. 

Dr. Karen Sutton, associate professor and sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, concurs with Hong. 

“Risks are inherent in any activity, but there’s no data to suggest that boys’ lacrosse should be included in the higher-risk category,” said Sutton, a former college lacrosse player at Duke who is also a team physician for U.S. Ski & Snowboard and the chief medical officer for World Lacrosse. “The nature of the sport does not lead to prolonged periods of close contact. Players are constantly moving, don’t share equipment and the game is played outdoors.” 

A trickle-down effect of the NFHS classification is that some states and local groups, in the absence of any sport-specific guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have followed the NFHS recommendation of placing boys’ lacrosse into the higher-risk category. At the same time, other states, including Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have both boys’ and girls’ lacrosse in the moderate-risk category.

“We’ve received no rationale or data behind the decision made by the NFHS, or any of these states, as to why boys’ lacrosse has been placed into a higher-risk category,” said Ann Kitt Carpenetti, VP of Lacrosse Operations for US Lacrosse. “We are reaching out to the leaders of the groups that have made these decisions to arm them with the perspective of our medical experts and provide additional information to help them make an informed decision."

In addition to direct outreach to the NFHS leadership, US Lacrosse has written letters to state government officials in states who list lacrosse classification as high-risk. The organization is also participating in a multi-sport survey looking at COVID risk and is leading grassroots efforts to organize lacrosse league and program leaders’ outreach to their local public officials about the importance of changing risk classification.

“This is a tremendously important issue for the lacrosse community, and we are committed to doing our best to make sure that our voice is heard,” Carpenetti said.