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Mythbusters: Lacrosse Curve Ball Shot

0 - Published December 19, 2013 by in Lifestyle, Technology

Welcome back to another installment of LaxAllStars’ Lacrosse Mythbusters! We look at interesting or confounding questions within lacrosse, talk to experts, and try to provide some clarity. In the past, we’ve asked if eye black really works, and found it does. We also wondered if traditional pockets were heavier than mesh pockets. Now we’re back and curious about the concept of the curve ball lacrosse shot!

Photo Credit: Jeff Melnik via Conquest Sports Photography

In baseball, when a pitcher throws the ball in a certain way, and with certain spin, the ball will curve as it goes through the air, dropping precipitously or swinging to one side or the other. Can we do this with a lacrosse ball? Let’s find out!

We actually tried three different types of balls when we went out to shoot, and we found that all three would curve when we shot them the right way. Some would curve more than others though!

The soft rubber ball had seams on it, like a baseball, and we could really get this one to curve a lot. The ball moved like crazy and the curve is clearly visible to both the naked eye, and on video. The dimpled lacrosse ball was a little bit slick and greasy (it’s an older ball) but it also curved noticeably when we could get it on cage. If this ball had been new, the grip on it would have been better, and the spin could have increased. It’s possible this ball could have curved much more.

And finally, we got to the real lacrosse balls. Most people tend to argue that you can not curve a regular lacrosse ball. They say that the ball has no seams so it won’t curve. Now, while seams do improve a ball’s ability to curve, they are not a deal breaker. Golf balls curve and they have dimples. Cannon balls curve, and they are quite smooth. A paper towel roll will even curve if it is spinning as it falls to the floor. So it’s not all about the seams.

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While a lacrosse ball is smooth, it is not perfectly smooth. There are small imperfections, brand label stamps, as well as a rubber seam around the middle of the ball. If you make it spin fast enough, you can get it to curve, and three of us SAW this happen in person. Jeff Melnik, Billy Nguyen, and I all saw lacrosse balls curve. Period. We saw it, and they did it. It wasn’t an illusion. The balls curved. Maybe a math genius can check this out, and validate what we saw with data!

The soft baseball-like ball moved 6-8 inches easily. The curve is very evident at the 1:12 mark of the video above. The dimpled ball had slightly less hook. The regular lacrosse balls probably only moved an inch or two, maybe 3 inches at most. I was not looking for balls that dropped, as gravity is tough to take into account. I was only trying to get the balls to move from side to side in midair.

MLL players routinely say that their dimpled orange lacrosse balls will curve when they are shot the right way. And now that I’ve seen it happen (and done it myself with a regular ball), I know that they are telling the absolute truth. Next time we get out there we’re using MLL balls as well.

No question about it… Lacrosse balls can curve.

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Got a good lacrosse myth that needs busting? Drop your ideas in the comments and we’ll see what we can do!

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