While you’re practicing outside and shooting the ball around, losing lacrosse balls can be a real issue. If you practice near a body of water, it’s only natural to wonder whether or not lacrosse balls float. After all, your lacrosse balls would be virtually irretrievable if they sank to the bottom of a muddy pond.
Lacrosse balls don’t float. The material used to make lacrosse balls is much denser than water, so they rapidly sink whenever they’re placed in water. It’s recommended that players don’t throw lacrosse balls around deep bodies of water for this very reason.
Now that you know lacrosse balls don’t float, you’re probably asking, “Why?” There are a couple of reasons as to why this is, which we will analyze in greater depth in the sections below. Read until the end to find out whether or not it’s possible to skip a lacrosse ball along a water’s surface.
Why Lacrosse Balls Don’t Float in Water
To demonstrate that lacrosse balls don’t float in water, I took the liberty of conducting a field test in my kitchen sink. I plugged the drain and filled the sink about halfway with water. Once the sink was about half full (or half empty if you’re pessimistic), I dropped the ball into the water and simply observed. The results speak for themselves:
Immediately after I placed the ball in the water, it sunk to the bottom. It never even appeared as though it were on the verge of floating. Also, it’s important to note that the ball didn’t hover in the middle of the water either. It simply continued to sink really quickly toward the bottom of the sink.
This piqued my curiosity and so I dug further into the exact reasons that explain this phenomenon.
Reason #1: Lacrosse Balls are NOT Hollow—They’re Solid Throughout
For one, lacrosse balls are made up of a solid rubber composition throughout. Some lacrosse players are under the impression that lacrosse balls have a hollowed out core. This is completely false. The same material that lies on the surface of the lacrosse ball is also found in the interior of the lacrosse ball.
If you still have doubts about this, check out the clip below. Someone actually took the time to cut a lacrosse ball in half to show the world what’s inside a lacrosse ball. Unfortunately, there’s no magic treasure inside. It’s just plain old rubber.
If you’ve ever held a lacrosse ball in your hand before, you’ve probably noticed that it has a little bit of weight to it. This is the reason why. With a hollowed out core, such a weight would not be possible.
The interior material of the lacrosse ball weighs it down, making it difficult for the water to keep it afloat. However, weight isn’t the only factor that causes lacrosse balls to sink. After all, huge yachts are able to stay afloat on the water despite weighing tons of pounds. So if weight isn’t the main contributing factor to why lacrosse balls sink, then what is?
Reason #2: The Rubber Used to Produce Lacrosse Balls Has a Greater Density than Water
The primary reason that lacrosse balls sink has to do with the materials used to manufacture them.
The majority of traditional lacrosse balls are made up of vulcanized rubber. As of late, more lacrosse companies are trending towards a similar rubber-like material called polyurethane (source). Both materials have similar density properties.
Not to get too mathematical on you, but I threw in the density values of rubber and water into the table below for comparison. As you can see, the density value for rubber is much higher than that of water.
The primary ingredient in most lacrosse balls is rubber (or the rubber-like material, polyurethane). There may be other trace ingredients, like oils and plasticizers, but the contribution of these materials to the overall composition of the lacrosse ball is negligible.
The considerable discrepancy in the density values of rubber and water is what causes lacrosse balls to sink so fast. Had lacrosse balls been made with a less dense material, maybe we wouldn’t lose so many lacrosse balls to the murky depths of ponds!
Reason #3: The Upward Buoyant Force Cannot Support a Lacrosse Ball Due to Its Minimal Surface Area
The last reason that lacrosse balls always sink in the water has to do with Archimedes’ Principle.
To bring you up to speed, the Archimedes’ Principle essentially states that an object in water experiences an upward force that is equivalent to the weight of the fluid displaced. This principle applies whether or not the object—in this case a lacrosse ball—is partially or wholly submerged into the liquid (source).
The upward force that lacrosse balls experience as a result of Archimedes’ Principle is not enough to keep it afloat because it weighs considerably more than the fluid that it displaces. This is largely because lacrosse balls are extremely compact, have a reasonably hefty weight, and lack a great degree of surface area.
The minimal surface area of lacrosse balls is an important thing to consider because surface area plays a large role in water displacement. As a general rule of thumb, the greater the amount of surface area of an object, the better the chance the object has of displacing a suitable amount of water to neutralize its own weight.
This is the rationale as to why boats always have a hull construction that is fairly large. By maximizing the hull surface area, more water can be displaced to offset the weight of the boat.
The surface area of lacrosse balls is definitely not optimized for the water. This, combined with all the aforementioned reasons, is what causes lacrosse balls to sink immediately.
Will Lacrosse Ball Manufacturers Ever Make a Lacrosse Ball that Floats?
After having lost a decent amount of lacrosse balls to the depths of lakes and ponds, I have often thought of this question myself. It should be a rather simple adjustment to make, right?
Unfortunately, lacrosse ball production is not that simple.
All lacrosse ball products must go through a rigorous set of safety regulations instituted by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, otherwise known as NOCSAE. If you look closely, you will actually find a statement that says Meets NOCSAE Standards engraved into every lacrosse ball.
The NOCSAE safety regulations are extremely thorough, which is why lacrosse balls are virtually identical to one another straight out of the package. One of the safety regulations that lacrosse balls must pass is a compression deflection load test.
With this test, lacrosse balls are placed under an immense amount of artificial pressure, so much so that the ball is noticeably squeezed outward. The pressure is continually increased until the ball reaches a fourth of its normal diameter. At this point, the amount of weight that’s being forced onto the lacrosse ball is measured and recorded.
To pass the test, the lacrosse ball must fall within the range of 180 to 210 lbs of pressure (source). Reducing the density of a lacrosse ball would make it exceedingly difficult to pass this specific safety regulation. Decreasing the density of the ball would ultimately weaken its structural integrity as well.
So until these NOCSAE regulations change, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a lacrosse ball that floats in the near future.
Can You Skip a Lacrosse Ball Across Water?
Even though you’re now well aware that lacrosse balls can sink, you may still be curious as to whether or not you can skip a lacrosse ball across water.
Despite the high density of lacrosse balls, they can still be skipped along the surface of water. At first, I was skeptical as to the truth of this. I’ve attempted this trick many times and only have several sunken lacrosse balls to show for it.
However, I conducted some further research online and discovered that none other than Paul Rabil, the lacrosse legend himself, actually performed this trick with the guys at Dude Perfect. If you’re curious to see how this trick is truly done, watch the clip below!
So if you’re interested in doing this as a party trick or something of the like, you’ll be happy to know that this is a real possibility. If you try this out though, make sure you do it on a body of water where you can actually go and retrieve your lacrosse balls. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing a lot of lacrosse balls. Trust me, I had to learn the hard way!
The Bottom Line
In short, all lacrosse balls will quickly sink when underwater and it doesn’t seem like buoyant lacrosse balls will be coming out anytime soon. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll probably end up losing lacrosse balls to nearby ponds or lakes if you’re not careful.
However, it is possible to skip lacrosse balls along the water’s surface, so that’s good news at least!