High school lacrosse players are facing an increasing number of injuries during practices as well as games, a new study finds.
Although the most common injuries are sprains and strains, more than 22 percent are concussions, researchers report. They note a better understanding of why these injuries are happening could lead to better ways to protect student athletes.
"Concern over concussions in both boys' and girls' lacrosse underscores the need to learn more about these injuries," said study co-author Dawn Comstock in a University of Colorado news release. She is an associate professor of epidemiology for the pediatric injury prevention, education and research program at the Colorado School of Public Health.
More than 170,000 high school students play lacrosse. Using data from the U.S. National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health and the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found these athletes suffered about 1,400 injuries from 2008 to 2012. Overall, there were 20 injuries for every 10,000 games and practices.
"Lacrosse is becoming more and more popular across the United States, and it's a great way for high school students to be active," study co-author Lara McKenzie, lead investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy and an associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, said in the news release. "Still, we see injuries in the sport every day during the season. Our research shows that we need to do more, and can do more, to prevent those injuries."
The findings were published online July 22 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
Gender played a role in the number and type of injuries sustained by high school lacrosse players, the researchers found.
Boys sustained 67 percent of all injuries and had an overall higher injury rate than girls. Of these injuries, roughly 36 percent were sprains and strains and 22 percent were concussions.
Body contact, which is only allowed in boys' lacrosse, caused 74 percent of concussions and 41 percent of injuries overall.
Among the girls who played high school lacrosse, nearly 44 percent of injuries were sprains and strains. Concussions accounted for 23 percent of all injuries sustained by girls. The most common cause of these injuries was a foot pivot that resulted in a pulled muscle and contact with equipment.
Being hit in the head with lacrosse sticks or balls caused 63 percent of concussions overall, the researchers noted. Although boys' lacrosse requires that players wear helmets, most high school girls' teams only make players wear protective eyewear and mouth guards. The researchers said their findings could fuel the debate over whether all high school lacrosse players should be required to wear helmets.
The researchers offered several tips for coaches and parents to help reduce the number of lacrosse injuries:
- Be sure all rules are followed, particularly those that limit contact among players.
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of concussion. Any player who may have a concussion should stop playing and receive immediate medical attention.
- Make sure all equipment and protective gear fits properly.
- Be sure to have players warm up before games and practice, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Be prepared. Establish an emergency action plan that details how sports injuries will be handled.