A lot goes into the lacrosse experience and the safety of participants — not only the equipment they wear, but also other factors like the composition of the ball and playing surface, the credentials of the coaches and officials, and the rules governing the game.
Surprisingly, many of these elements are not standardized, often relegating a player’s safety to the discretion of consumers. One of US Lacrosse’s primary functions is to foster uniformity in the playing experience through education and advocacy.
To that end, the sport's national governing body had cause to celebrate Friday, when NOCSAE formally approved a new standard for chest protectors that researchers believe will reduce the likelihood of commotio cordis, a rare but lethal disruption of the heart rhythm that occurs as the result of a blow to the area directly over the heart.
Here’s a quick look at the essentials for which standards exist and should be followed — and those which remain discretionary.
Though specifications exist for competitive purposes, there are no performance standards related to the component materials like the plastic of the head or the metal of the shaft.
Original research in 2005 by Trey Crisco, a member of the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee, led to the development of a NOCSAE ball standard, which became required by rules in 2014.
This longtime standard was in the spotlight in December 2014, when NOCSAE voided certification of the Cascade R and Warrior Regulator. Cascade developed a modification to regain NOCSAE compliance.
Testing requirements include projectile and penetration tests.
How are those pearly whites? ASTM F697 provides a standard for care and use, but the material used in mouth protection is not standardized.
Broken thumbs are among the most common injuries for goalies.
Though required by rules, arm guards do not have to meet a performance standard.
See, arm pads.
Rib Pads *
Chest Protector **
A standard to reduce risk of commotio cordis was approved Friday.
Throat Protector **
Required for goalies. There is a standard for ice hockey (ASTM 3165), but not lacrosse.
* optional equipment
** required for goalies
Specifications have been under review in recent years to ensure competitive balance, but no safety standards exist.
NOCSAE measures how much pressure it takes to compress the ball to 25 percent of its diameter, recently limiting that range to 115-150 pounds.
Studies showed a drastic reduction in ocular injuries after US Lacrosse and the NCAA mandated protective eyewear in 2014.
US Lacrosse led the development of this standard for optional head protection as allowed by the rules. Products must keep non-opting players safe by deforming upon contact, but must also meet stick and ball impact requirements.
Care and use standard ASTM F697 applies.
Shin Guard (Goalie) **
Lacrosse goalies’ shin guards (mandatory at high school and below) must meet this soccer standard.
Helmet (Goalie) **
Gloves (Goalie) **
Throat Protector (Goalie) **
Chest Protector (Goalie) **
This standard, developed initially for football, provides recommended specifications for shock absorption of turf playing systems.
The national governing body offers a three-tiered certification system that can be completed in 3-5 years.
US Lacrosse requires its officials to undergo training and education as part of an annual recertification process. Not all local officials organizations, however, require US Lacrosse certification.
ASTM standards cover impact attenuation for athletic shoe cushioning and traction of sports surface interface, both does not address these for specific sports.
US Lacrosse, NFHS and NCAA
In accordance with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, US Lacrosse adjusted its rules — including small-sided play and player segmentation — to assure a more developmentally appropriate experience at the youth level.