Hot Pot Of Lax: Changing Sports Rules And The Unintended Consequences

10 out of 10.
10 out of 10.

A number of posts on have focused on how changes to the game of lacrosse could improve the product, and these changes have been considered and argued for NCAA Lacrosse, the MLL, and the NLL, and I’m sure it’s not going to stop anytime soon.  But in today’s Hot Pot we’ll be taking a look at past game changes that didn’t exactly work out as intended, and we’ll try to keep this in mind when our next set of suggestions comes up!

The first example of unintended consequences has to do with increased padding in the NHL and increased risk of concussion.  An article in highlights how bigger, tougher shoulder pads are actually more dangerous than smaller shoulder pads even though they tout better protection.  So how does this work?  Well, the shoulder pads do provide better protection… to the shoulders of the guy who is wearing them.  But they ALSO have an unintended effect: helping create worse concussions.  When a player isn’t as worried about getting hurt, they will hit harder.  And when the padding exteriors get harder and made of tougher materials, the impacts become worse.  What seemed like a smart protective move may actually be even more dangerous.  Crazy, right?

Thankfully, the NFL realized this truth back when helmet and shoulder combination pads were introduced.  The idea was that by connecting the helmet to the shoulder pad, neck injuries could be reduced.  The counter argument was that this would allow all NFL players to turn themselves into projectiles with no fear of neck injury.  Thankfully, the latter argument won out because players do that now even with the risk of severe injury.  Imagine how hard and violently James Harrison would hit if he had NO reason not to.

These glaring examples have to do with padding and safety, but rule changes don’t always have to do with safety… sometimes they just have to do with the quality of play, and soccer starting to use offsides is a perfect example of this.

I remember playing soccer without offsides.  The game was even more open, and in a couple passes you could goal to goal with ease.  It was spread out, and you could never forget about your man if you were on defense.  There were breakaways, one on ones and more offensive opportunities than I could ever remember.  22 players were spread out all over the field, and there was plenty of space to operate.  However, once offsides was introduced players were forced to bunch up more and more, as more of the field could be in “offsides territory” due to a good defensive back line.  This resulted in fewer offensive chances, many fewer breakaways and one on ones and changed the game in a major way.  Now teams were looking for free kicks to create offense, and how do you get free kicks?  By getting fouled!  So welcome in even more diving… sweet.  So now it’s harder to score a goal and there is more diving.  Just what we wanted.

I don’t think that better protection in hockey was designed to increase concussions.  And I don’t think that offsides in soccer was meant to promote diving.  But both of these moves helped produce the outcomes in some way, shape or form, so it’s important for us to REALLY think through any rules changes before they are implemented.

Right now the raging debate in college lacrosse surrounds the shot clock.  Some are strong advocates for it, and others against.  But before we even think about really making this change, I think we need to look a little deeper at what could possibly result from a major change like this.  If you’ve got any crazy ideas for what might happen if the shot clock becomes reality we’d love to hear them!

Could it eventually result in zone defenses being made illegal, like in the NBA?

Could it actually lower scoring?




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It’s a story about a single man’s courage, a team’s feeling of brotherhood, and the true community aspect that lacrosse can bring to the table when it’s done right.  Everything wasn’t perfect from day 1, but in the end, the team came together and showcased the true bond that team sports can create by simply accepting and loving one of their own for who he is.


  1. So, using your reasoning, we shouldn’t be concerned with buying a helmet with better padding / protection to prevent concussions because that will create the unintended consequence of giving one a false sense of security and create a more reckless style of play.
     Have you ever suffered a concussion while playing lacrosse? 

    Have you known players who were forced to leave the sport of lacrosse due to post concussion syndrome? 

     Do I drive more recklessly because I use a seatbelt? NO.  

      Do I drive more recklessly because my car has airbags? NO.

    Would players play more recklessly if they had more protective helmets?  NO. 

     This isn’t football. Players will still be penalized by the refs for head shots no matter what they wear on their head.  Better helmets + good officiating = less concussions.


    • I agree Uncle Charlie.  I wear a helmet skiing, but that I don’t ski any crazier than before I wore the helmet.  Too many kids are getting concussions.  It probably has more to do with the increased size and speed of players.  In hockey the players are much bigger and that equals more force when they hit. The same with lacrosse.  We need better equipment,better coaching and better officiating to cut down on concussions.

      • @53932d30b33d5b57607a6c992d00a96b:disqus  – please note that I did not advocate for less protective helmets in lacrosse.  I brought up shoulder pads and a shoulder pad helmet combo in two other sports.

        You both make interesting points, but please don’t put words in my mouth.  And you guys are drawing those parallels, not me.  So you were using YOUR logic, not mine.

        I believe that each sport and area of padding (shoulder vs head, etc) is different and must be looked at on an individual basis with careful study.  If you reread my post, I think you’ll find that’s the case, and you’ll also notice I didn’t knock increased protection via a helmet once.

  2. I completely agree as far as the shot clock is concerned. So far, all we have to go on in terms of how the shot clock affects the game is the MLL. I think that the proponents of the shot clock are really only considering how the game will look when played at its highest level. Would UVA-Cuse be great to watch with a shot clock? Absolutely. Is it also possible that a lower level (even lower tier D1) game could be brutal to watch? Certainly. Poor shots, packed in D, etc. Be careful what you wish for. 

    • Hey Mon, 

      If you happened to see Syracuse play the rest of their schedule, you’d have watched some BRUTALLY BORING GAMES.  The only teams that played lacrosse with SU were UVA and Cornell.  The rest of the games were YAWNBALL.   So, if you like YAWNBALL leave things the way they are, but if you like to watch some real up and down, action packed lacrosse, FIX the GAME!!  SPEED IT UP!

      • I don’t think I mentioned how many Cuse games I watched or how many teams chose to slow it down against the Orange last season. I used the example of UVA and Cuse as two of the most talented and athletic teams in D1 who would be enjoyable to watch play with a shot clock. The article is about unintended consequences, and my point is that while the game might be faster, there is also a chance that we would see some BRUTALLY SLOPPY GAMES. 

          • I agree, Salt.  Open up the sticks and you’ll see the game open up.  Also, in reply to anonymous: Since when is lacrosse not supposed to be sloppy?  I’ll tell you:  Since the sticks were so pinched that takeaway checks were made obsolete, passing, cutting, off ball movement were rendered obsolete all due to the dodge and shoot game which pinched heads and deep bags created. Good lacrosse games are supposed to be a little sloppy, that’s the transition game.  Today, there is no transition game. Nope, it’s a chess match. Nice and neat and dainty.

          • When I say sloppy, I’m referring to bad shots taken late in the shot clock or forced passes to try to create a shot before the shot clock expires. What you seem to be referring to as sloppy are ground balls and transition. Both of those are great and are usually created by aggressive defense and stick checking. Now maybe you can tell me what the advantage of pressing out on defense and throwing stick checks is if the offense has to get off a shot in 60 seconds. You would more likely see the defense pack it in, hoping to force a bad outside shot. I think that is yet another potential consequence of the shot clock- less pressure defense. I disagree that good games are a bit sloppy. I’m not sure what level lacrosse you are watching, but I’m sure it’s sweet. 

  3. I’d say the Unitended Consequence of pinched lacrosse heads, deep sidewalls and deep bags has been the death passing, ball movement, passing, picks, excitement, takeaway checks,  off ball movement and the transition game in field lacrosse. 

    Or, maybe it was the intended consequence?   Either way, it’s been a negative development. Unless you’re an equipment manufacturer.