Hot Pot Of Lax: Concussions In Lacrosse

ACC head shot lacrosse
We call that chin music.

Beware, today’s Hot Pot of Lax is Paining!

This week’s Hot Pot victim: Concussions In Lacrosse

We’ve heard a LOT about headshots, improper hitting technique, and an increased worry about concussions, as well as head and neck injuries.  412 has been posting Daily Head Shot Video posts to illustrate that the problem exists in a lot of places, and they’re not all D1 lacrosse either.  HS games, MCLA games and all levels of NCAA games have seen headshots this season, and I really appreciate that 412 is talking about it.

This is one of those issues that can make or break the game of lacrosse, and in this instance, I’ve actually been impressed with how the lacrosse community has reacted.  There are still a lot of missed calls.  Some refs still don’t seem to understand the difference between a clean hit in lacrosse and a clean hit in football.  A lot of coaches are clearly not teaching to hit correctly, and a lot of players seem resistant to the change as well.  But it’s happening, and big change can be slow.  The key is to keep the issue at the forefront.

The fact that the NCAA instituted new, longer penalties for headshots, especially those that are viewed to be reckless or intentional, was a great first sign.  This has quickly trickled down in theory to lower level lacrosse leagues like High School, youth and other college ball.  And this is a good thing.  Many times, a rule change will be enacted for the safety of players, and some leagues are slow to adapt.  The fact that so many have followed the NCAA’s lead is encouraging.

ACC head shot lacrosse
We call that chin music.

Photo courtesy

When you add in the fact that the MLL is now instituting baseline testing for their athletes’ brains this season, and it’s pretty clear that headshots are an issue there as well.  And the MLL knows that the level of tough play is even higher in the pro ranks, so I’m glad to see them take this step.  I can only hope that the NLL, whose players suffer from a decent number of concussions every year, will institute a similar policy.  There is simply NO reason to have athletes, who are being paid under $40,000 a year, go out and risk injury like that.  The MLL has this one right… player safety is priority number 1.  This is true in a moral sense of the idea, and it also true in a liability sense.  The MLL could not afford to have a player die on the field because they suffered a massive concussion and then were allowed to play again.  Not financially, and not in terms of popularity.

Headshots can be a death knell for lacrosse.  The NFL is currently trying to backtrack on the issue of concussions, and if they are unsuccessful in doing so, they will suffer from it.  Less kids will play football, less people will care about football and the sport will become impossibly expensive to insure.  The focus won’t be on the sport anymore, as much as it will be on the spectre of death that surrounds any event, much like NASCAR.  Are there people out there that “appreciate” that kind of spectacle?  Certainly.  I just don’t think that’s the direction lacrosse wants to go.



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Well, other than the 27 minute long Tufts Lacrosse Documentary, of course!

This week it’s just your basic 8 minute video on some lacrosse being played in Argentina.  Yup, Argentina.  And it’s not even their national team, or a bunch of visiting foreigners… it’s two clubs of Argentine laxers, playing a game of lax.  To me, this is just awesome. I hope you speak some Spanish!


  1. We have the Impact Testing at my school and while it does suck to have to take, it definitly helped one of our players this year.
    She got a knee to the head, went down, after a little bit she seemed fine. She was talking fine, no ringing in her ears, no sensitivity to light, no nothing. She took the impact test anyway and essentially got a 0. Clearly she was still not doing ok.
    Impact testing is a great thing. It is already in place at most institutions within the NCAA

  2. Concussions are not just caused by high hits, they can be caused by a number of things including ball strikes. Earlier this season we had a player get struck in the head during practice with his helmet on. The impact not only caused a concussion but also a skull fracture and a brain bleed which almost cost him his life. The Pro-7 is now being tested for it’s safety on side impact by a ball. Check out the below link.

  3. I head coach a varsity team and had two kids get concussions in the same game this past season. Luckily, my significant other is an athletic trainer for an NCAA school and has educated me a lot on the subject. While we don’t do impact tests (yet) I am extra cautious with anyone who shows symptoms by not letting them practice, let alone play until 4 days after they show no signs. Even then they start out with light practicing then slowly increasing until they are back. The main thing is I want these kids to understand how serious concussions are and be serious with me if they are not feeling well.

  4. I think you missed the ball on this one Connor. having watched a lot of lacrosse this year, referees have gone flag-crazy when it comes to physical play. Any big hit now draws a flag in almost any situation, which is not only wrong but is hurting the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for protecting players, but sacrificing the exciting and often violent nature of the sport is not something you can talk me into. Enough flags have been thrown on clean checks this year. The emphasis on head contact has been a disaster.

    Now, don’t get me started on the new counts…

    • I would agree with you that certain areas of the game have seen the extreme pendulum swing in reffing and penalties regarding headshots. GOOD refs, in DIII lax especially, have probably tightened down more than they should be, but that is often the case with new rules being implemented.
      Lacrosse is a violent sport, but if you don’t think there was a problem with all the high hits in the game, then we’re going to have to chalk that one up to a difference in opinion.
      The REAL point here is HS, MCLA games where the refs aren’t that knowledgeable.
      It’s not a knock on them, they’re still learning and I”m glad they’re participating, but if you had seen some of these hits and heard some of the stories, I think you might change your tune.
      My comments were meant for pretty much ALL of lacrosse, but try to remember… all this lacrosse YOU are seeing is VERY good, and the refs, while we might not agree with them, have mostly been doing it for YEARS. So in that case, people expect to be allowed to play a bit more and be physical In ‘Bama? Probably not quite as much. But they still treat it like football and have kids spearing each other with their helmets.
      Headshots are cheap shots, plain and simple. I was guilty of a few in college myself. Many of those weren’t called, but should have been. The reffing will hopefully get better, but I stand by my call that the rule is a major improvement.

      • From what I have see in ‘Bama it really depends on the school and refs in regards to football style hits. We played against teams who we could tell they had football players on their team because they were leading with their heads on every hit and some refs call it while others think it is part of the game even when the opposing player ends up with a very severe concussion. However, many good legal hits though are being called as well because some refs call anything remotely rough. I don’t blame the refs completely, just more education and consistence in calls needs to be adopted across the board. As the sport develops across the South I feel like these problems will go away.