Defenseless Players and Concussion Injuries

Lacrosse may be the fastest-growing high school boy’s sport in the United States, but only football and ice hockey have higher concussion rates A new study pinpoints a possible culprit: widespread and intentional use of helmets during player-to-player contact, often to defenseless players, and usually without a penalty being called.

Researchers at the Medstar Sports Medicine Research Center in Baltimore videotaped 518 boys’ lacrosse games at 25 public high schools in Fairfax County, Virginia during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. A total of 86 concussions were identified and treated by athletic trainers.

Defenseless Hits Prevention

The findings suggest that “the principal causes of concussions in boys’ lacrosse are associated with intentional use of helmets during player-to-player contact,” wrote lead author, Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD, MS, Director of the Sports Medicine Research Center, MedStar Health Research Institute at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.

“Our findings also demonstrate that the struck player was unaware and unprepared for the impending impact in about half of the collisions resulting in concussions and captured on video.  These ‘defenseless hits’ represent scenarios where the player’s full attention is focused on obtaining possession of the ball, and therefore, the player may be vulnerable to unanticipated contact from an opponent.”

Teaching players to take a “heads up” approach (as is being done in boys’ hockey and football), and emphasizing the importance of increasing the strength of neck muscles are areas that are gaining increasing attention as ways of mitigating the rotational forces that are seen by experts as the principal injury mechanism of concussion. This would appear to be especially relevant to lacrosse, as Dr. Lincoln’s study reports that impacts to the side of the helmet and the parietal lobe of the brain were involved in about a third of all concussion impacts to the head, impacts that presumably resulted in precisely the kind of spinning of the brain that can lead to concussion.

Rules and Enforcement Enhancements

The absence of penalty calls on most of these plays suggests an area for exploration, such as the extent to which rules governing player to player contact are enforced and how effective these rules are for the prevention of head injury at various levels of the sport,” the study concluded.

As in boys’ hockey and football, rules against intentional contact to the head are only as good as the officials charged with enforcing them.

Many support the study’s recommendation about ways to reduce concussions in the sport, expressing the view that “violent collision should be removed from boys’/men’s lacrosse.”


Because players are vulnerable, there is some responsibility to leagues like lacrosse camps Washington DC trusts, protective gear companies, coaches, referees, etc. to be sure that players hit the fields as safely as possible. If you think you or your loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a lawyer today.

Performance Sports SystemsThanks to our friends and contributors from Performance Sports Systems for their insight into defenseless players and concussions.