Is Lacrosse Really Safer?


Concussions have been a hot topic as of late.  The writer’s room here at LAS recently took on the Sports Guy for suggesting the new focus on cranium health will encourage more parents to push their kids away from football and towards lacrosse.

Does that make any sense?  Is little Johnny less likely to be knocked unconscious with a stick in his hand?

A review of the statistics paints a fuzzy picture.  According to, 4,387 people checked in to an emergency room for a lacrosse or rugby related concussion in 2008.  Why did they feel the need to combine lacrosse and rugby?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The same study reports that 40,825 trips to the E.R. were caused by football related concussions.

Does that mean lacrosse is safer?  This initially looks to be the case, since lax only accounts for about 5% of the amount of concussions football does (seriously, why did they need to combine lacrosse and rugby?).  However, the number of athletes that participate in the two sports needs to be taken in to account.

According to the NFHS, there were 1,112,303 high school athletes playing football during the 2008-2009 school year.  Meanwhile, US Lacrosse reports that 131,092 boys played for a high school program in the same year.

Is this enough?

If we assume that half of the numbers reported by Neurosurgery Today are lacrosse related, and that another half of those were from the high school ranks, 1 in every 120 high school lacrosse players took a trip to the E.R. due to a concussion in 2008.

If the same technique is applied to football, 1 in every 54 high school football players needed immediate attention from a doctor because of a concussion sustained during a practice or a game in ’08.

Take away from this what you will, but note that these numbers do not take in to account the fact that I am terrible at math, and that I assumed probably more than I should have.

While these numbers suggest that you’re half as likely to be on the wrong end of a concussion inducing hit while playing lacrosse, I’m not sure if those numbers mean great things for the sport.  Can we agree that you are more than twice as likely to get hit in the head during a football game?  Linemen knock buckets on practically every snap.  If so, does that mean our helmets aren’t as protective?

Lots to think about.

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  1. I know why lacrosse and rugby were grouped together…because theyre both BADASS and are the lesser-known of the sports so not as many people play them (probably because they are too BADASS for normal sport-goers to handle)

    Good insight- glad someone took the next logical step following the 'concussion debate' in the sportsguy article. I wish there were more concrete stats to compare- but I think some of the problems with these studies come from the fact that a lot of minor concussions go undiagnosed.

    Also, there might be another problem with comparing concussion in sports. In my football playing days, I always remember there being at least 1 if not 2 or more trainers on the sidelines, but during my lax days (in high school) there was nary a trainer to be seen for at least half of my games. So if a trainer isnt there when it happens, the poor kid who got his bell rung wont get the infamous 'concussion test' on the sidelines- and whose to keep him from going right back in and getting another one?