Can You Tackle in Lacrosse?

Certain athletes transitioning over to lacrosse from other sports may be under the pretense that tackling in lacrosse is within the realm of legality. At first glance, it is obvious that lacrosse is a contact sport. With the high flying hits and flashy stick checks, it is no wonder that beginners seriously question the legality of tackling lacrosse opponents.

Tackling is not allowed in lacrosse. Many newcomers mistakenly believe that body checking and tackling are the same thing. Body checking is a legal defensive maneuver that is performed by defenders to dislodge the ball from offensive players. Tackling, on the other hand, is a strict violation of defensive lacrosse conduct.

There are distinct stipulations in place that confirm the legality of body checking and the illegality of tackling. To fully comprehend why tackling violates the lacrosse rulebook, it is necessary to take a look at these specific details. These explicit guidelines will be analyzed in depth in the subsequent paragraphs.

Reasons Why Tackling Is Not Allowed

There are a multitude of reasons as to why tackling is not allowed in lacrosse. Tackling opponents violates several regulations that govern player to player contact in the sport of lacrosse.

One prominent violation is that body checking an opponent on the ground is illegal. Thus, deliberately tackling an opponent down to the ground violates this rule, regardless of whether the player is in possession of the ball or not.

Another significant infraction is that tackling typically involves hitting the opponent from the rear or below the waist. Tackling inherently involves taking out the legs of an opponent from underneath of them. This is another stark violation of the lacrosse rulebook. Physical body checking contact must occur from the front or the side, above the belt, and below the head.

Furthermore, in order for a player to tackle another player, they have to remove their hands from their crosse to grab the opponent. When body checking an opponent, the player must keep two hands on their crosse throughout the entire movement. Losing hand contact with the crosse is just another infraction to add to the laundry list of lacrosse rules that tackling violates.

Moreover, you cannot sprint from a great distance into an opponent and violently lay them out. Running full speed into another player from fifteen yards away is a guaranteed method of getting yourself into the penalty box. Lacrosse players are only limited to a couple steps when executing a legal body check. Players that tackle opposing players routinely exceed this step quota.

These violations are summarized below in an easy to read table for your benefit.

Reasons Why Tackling is Not Allowed
Illegal body check on a downed opponent.
Illegal body check from the rear or below the waist.
Loss of hand contact with the crosse during body check.
Running in from greater than five yards out to body check an opponent.

The Penalty for Tackling an Offensive Player

The penalties dealt by lacrosse referees for deliberate tackling of an opponent are swift and harsh.

Depending on the severity of the tackle, penalty may include disqualification from the lacrosse contest. At the very least, referees usually attribute a personal foul to the player involved in the form of a two to three non releasable penalty.

For those that are new to the game, this means that the penalized team must play with one less player on the field while the penalized player serves their allotted time in the penalty box.

The term non releasable means that the entire allotted time of the penalty must be served before that player is able to take the field again, regardless of whether or not the opposing team scores a goal.

Why People Believe Tackling is Legal in Lacrosse

Obviously, this idea of tackling being legal in lacrosse must have originated from somewhere. This brings about a compelling question. How did this misconception of tackling in lacrosse come about?

Big Collisions

Well there is no denying that big collisions are an integral part of lacrosse. The pulverizing hits that are legally executed by defensemen are one of the most exciting facets of the game.

It is easy for newcomers to the sport of lacrosse to confuse body checking with the more popularized defensive football maneuver of tackling. This is a fair blunder to make. However, it has far reaching consequences.

This false belief that tackling is legal in lacrosse puts lacrosse players at further risk. Like I have said many times before, player safety is of the utmost importance in the lacrosse community. Thus, spreading awareness of the specifics of lacrosse rules and quelling misconceptions such as this will help to protect players in the future.

Substantial Protective Equipment

Another potentially confusing element to individuals that are unfamiliar with the sport of lacrosse is the considerable amount of equipment lacrosse players must wear.

When individuals see this considerable amount of equipment for the first time, they are more likely to jump to the conclusion that tackling is the primary means of player to player contact. Little do they know that protective lacrosse equipment primarily serves as a safeguard against stick checks and high velocity shots.

This is not to diminish the fact that lacrosse equipment protects against violent body checks. It certainly does that too. It is just that most unaware individuals automatically correlate the hefty amount of protective gear with the legality of tackling.

Legal Defensive Alternatives to Tackling

Now that we have dispelled the myth that tackling is legal in the sport of lacrosse, let us take a look at some healthy alternatives that players can employ to appropriately defend against offensive opponents.

Body Check

A common source of confusion among newcomers, the body check is a far better alternative to tackling.

Body checks must adhere to a certain criteria to qualify as a legal hit. The main qualifying criteria is listed below:

Legal Body Checking Criteria
Contact must be from the front or the side.
Contact must be above the belt and below the head.
Cannot contact an opponent whose body is on the ground.
Must keep both hands on the crosse throughout the motion of the check.
Cannot run in from more than five yards to body check an opponent.
Check must take place on a player with possession or within five yards of loose ball.
Cannot hit the opponent with the helmet.

When done correctly, body checking is one of the most practical defensive tactics in lacrosse. Rather than illegally incapacitating an opponent, a body check obstructs the stick handling ability of an offensive player. It is an effective approach of generating turnovers and preventing the opposition from scoring.

Stick Check

Additionally, the stick check is another pragmatic substitute for tackling in lacrosse.

Like the body check, the stick check must also follow a strict set of guidelines to qualify as legal. The major requirements are listed below:

Legal Stick Checking Criteria
No wild or reckless stick checks are allowed.
Contact must be above the belt and below the head.
Cannot excessively beat the pads of the opponent.

The stick check is a tactical means to inhibit the progress of an offensive player. Mastering the art of the stick check takes time and practice. Unlike tackling, stick checking requires a bit of finesse and precision on the part of the defensive player. Like the body check, this defensive strategy is a proficient technique for causing opposing turnovers.

Sports Where You Can Legally Tackle

If you are bummed that tackling is not what you hoped it would be in lacrosse, there are some alternative sports where tackling is completely legal. Check out some of these sports if you are searching for a healthy dose of physical contact.


This is probably the first sport that popped into your head when you heard the term tackling. Football features some of the most vicious physical contact in the world of sports. You can certainly tackle people here.


This sport is a bit lesser known than American football. Nonetheless, tackling is a fundamental part of rugby. These players are rough, tough, and gruff. You will definitely get your fill of tackling with this sport.

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of Lacrosse Pack. I enjoy hitting the local lacrosse fields and honing in on the craft in my free time.

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