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Injuries on the rise among high school lacrosse players

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High school lacrosse players are sustaining an increasing number of injuries in both games and practices, according to a study published in the July 22 American Journal of Sports Medicine. With more than 170,000 U.S. students now playing the sport, a research team from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Colorado School of Public Health found high school lacrosse players sustained 1,406 injuries in the academic years from 2008 through 2012, or 20 injuries per 1,000 competitions and practices.

The researchers’ study objective was to determine if lacrosse injury rates differed by type of activity – competition or practice – and by gender. To that end, they collected data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System, High School RIO, which uses reports from certified athletic trainers from around the country.

Overall, the findings showed that 22 percent of lacrosse injuries were concussions, the second most common injury after sprains and strains, which came in at 38 percent. However, because the rules for boys and girls lacrosse are different – girls’ lacrosse largely prohibits person-to-person contact and helmets are not required – the number and kinds of injuries differed by sex.

Despite the prohibition, 25 percent of girl’s injuries were concussions that resulted from person-to-person contact. Another 63 percent of concussions were attributable to hits to the head by lacrosse sticks or balls. Almost 44 percent of injuries to girls were sprains and strains.

Boys had a higher injury rate than girls, sustaining a total of 67 percent of all injuries. About 36 percent of boys’ injuries were sprains and strains and 22 percent were concussions. Person-to-person contact is allowed in boys’ lacrosse and accounted for 74 percent of concussions and 41 percent of injuries overall.

“Lacrosse is becoming more and more popular across the United States, and it’s a great way to for high school students to be active,” study co-author Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, said in a 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,” added McKenzie.

Recent concern over sports injuries, and concussion in particular, underscores the need to get the word out about prevention. Among the steps players, coaches, officials, trainers and parents can take to make lacrosse safer are strict enforcement of the rules, especially those limiting person-to-person contact and requiring players to wear appropriate protective equipment.

The authors also urge sports personnel and parents to learn the symptoms of concussion and remove any player from the game suspected of sustaining a head injury. In addition, they advise being prepared for injuries before they happen by making sure emergency action plans are in place should a player become injured.