According to a recent study, high school lacrosse players sustained 1,406 injuries during 4 academic years from 2008 to 2012, and more than 22% of those injuries were concussions; the second most common injury diagnosis behind sprains and strains (38%).

The study appears online in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Colorado School of Public Health indicate that the overall injury rate was 20 per 10,000 lacrosse competitions and practices. Additionally, a news release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital states that the researchers revealed that while the rules for girls’ lacrosse largely forbid person-to-person contact, nearly 25% of concussions in girls’ lacrosse resulted from this type of contact.

The study also suggests another 63% of concussions resulted from being struck by lacrosse sticks or balls. The release adds that many high school girls’ lacrosse players are only required to use protective eyewear and mouth guards, and not the helmets and additional padding required for boys’ lacrosse.

In the release, Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, study author, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, notes that while lacrosse is gaining popularity, “…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.”

As a result of the differing rules regarding person-to-person contact in boys’ and girls’ high school lacrosse, the number and types of injuries also differed between the genders. Boys sustained 67% of the total injuries and had a higher overall injury rate than girls. A total of 36% of boys’ injuries were sprains and strains, about 22% were concussions. The researchers add that person-to-person contact, which is allowed in boys’ lacrosse, caused 74% of concussions and 41% of boys’ lacrosse injuries overall.

The study’s results suggest nearly 44% of injuries to girls were sprains and strains, and concussions comprised another 23%. The results also indicate that the most common causes of injuries were no contact, involving pulled muscles, and contact with playing equipment. Researchers say for both boys and girls, injury rates were higher during competition than in practice.

“Concern over concussion in both boys’ and girls’ lacrosse underscores the need to learn more about these injuries,” explains Dawn Comstock, PhD, study author and professor of Epidemiology for the Pediatric Injury Prevention, Education, and Research (PIPER) program at the Colorado School of Public Health.

“Further study will help those working to develop and implement effective injury prevention programs,” Comstock adds.

The release reports that there is a range of tips from researchers for players, coaches, officials, athletic trainers, and parents can implement to make lacrosse safer. These include learning the symptoms of concussion, with the removal from play and evaluation by a medical professional of any athlete suspected of having a concussion. These tips also encourage the strict enforcement of rules, limiting player-to-player contact, and warming up properly, drinking plenty of water, and rest after practice or competition. Wearing well-fitting, protective equipment is also recommended.

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital