If you’ve ever watched a lacrosse game, you’ve likely noticed that the lacrosse ball runs wild on the field, so much so that players accidentally get hit with erratic shots and passes. This prompts potential athletes to question how much pain these lacrosse balls cause, as most newcomers have never even touched a lacrosse ball before.
Getting hit with a lacrosse ball hurts, particularly if you’re on the wrong end of a high speed shot. These balls are not soft. They consist of a hard, solid rubber composition. Even with protective equipment, certain body parts are still left exposed. Getting hit in these exposed areas is painful.
With that being said, there are three general facts that you should know about why lacrosse balls hurt. After we go through these facts, read on to discover some common injuries caused by lacrosse balls and several effective ways to overcome your fear of taking a haphazard shot to the body.
Why Getting Hit with a Lacrosse Ball Hurts
The majority of people are shocked to find how badly getting hit with a lacrosse ball hurts. Players that are caught in the crossfire between the shooter and the goal accidentally get hit with lacrosse shots frequently. Most goalies get hit with lacrosse shots every single game! If their reflexes with the stick fail them, they have to stop opposing shots somehow.
So how is it that lacrosse balls hurt? The eye-opening facts below will uncover exactly how and why lacrosse balls can be painful if they hit a player.
Fact #1: Lacrosse Balls are Made of Solid Rubber Throughout
The primary contributing factor to the pain caused by lacrosse balls is its composition. Contrary to popular opinion, lacrosse balls are not cushioned whatsoever. They’re not like a hacky sack. When lacrosse balls are lightly tossed onto the street or sidewalk pavement, they bounce because of how hard they are.
The primary ingredient in traditional lacrosse balls is vulcanized rubber, the same material that the majority of hockey pucks are made out of (source). If you’ve ever felt a hockey puck before, you know that those things are not soft!
The legal weight of lacrosse balls as mandated by NOCSAE lies between 5.0 to 5.25 ounces (source). However, when people first hold a lacrosse ball in their hand, it can feel so hard and heavy that certain individuals are led to believe that there is cement concealed within the ball. Fortunately, this is not the case. The same vulcanized rubber composition can be found throughout the entirety of the lacrosse ball, from the superficial surface to the center core.
Newer lacrosse balls, like the Pearly by Guardian or the ECD Mint by East Coast Dyes, have transitioned to lacrosse balls made with polyurethane instead of vulcanized rubber (source). Although these are two separate materials, the feel of the ball is nearly identical. In short, it still hurts to get hit with these newer polyurethane lacrosse balls.
Fact #2: The Average Speed of a Lacrosse Shot is 70 to 80 mph
Aside from the basic composition of lacrosse balls, there is another crucial element to consider when looking at why lacrosse balls hurt. That element is the average speed of a lacrosse shot.
The majority of painful experiences with lacrosse balls have to do with errant shots. Being hit with a wayward pass is more of an annoyance rather than an actual bout of physical pain. The reason for this tremendous difference in pain is that lacrosse shots move at a velocity of 70 to 80 mph! Lacrosse passes don’t come anywhere near that range.
Needless to say, the faster the shot is, the more painful that it feels when you get hit. If you’ve ever been beamed with a baseball pitch before, it feels like that… only worse. Lacrosse balls are harder than baseballs.
This is why some defenders have a tendency to flinch when a ball carrier rears back for a shot. After you’ve been hit once with a lacrosse shot, it’s only natural to recoil at the thought of stepping into the line of fire again.
Fact #3: Protective Lacrosse Equipment Doesn’t Cover Everything
Moreover, it’s important to realize that the protective equipment in lacrosse fails to shield every part of the body. Even with the the helmet, shoulder pads, arm pads, and gloves, there are still gaps in the protection.
In fact, your entire lower body is left uncovered. Players are not required to wear shin guards or padded compression shorts. If you take a lacrosse shot to the legs, it’s bound to hurt. The only sliver of protection that you have is the thin layer of clothing between you and the ball. This clothing fabric doesn’t absorb the brunt of the impact. You do.
With that being said, receiving a direct hit to your protective equipment doesn’t feel too good either. Although much of the impact is absorbed by the padding, there is still risk for injury depending on how fast the shot is. This is particularly true of receiving a forceful strike to the helmet, which we’ll investigate in further detail later on in the article.
Common Injuries Caused by Getting Hit with a Lacrosse Ball
Fortunately, although lacrosse balls hurt, they typically only leave a temporary sting. If they had a tendency to do lasting damage on lacrosse players, I’m fairly certain that they would have recalled all lacrosse ball products by now.
Most lacrosse players on the wrong end of an inadvertent pass or shot may go down on the field immediately, but they’re typically able to return to the game a couple plays later once the initial sting wears off. However, there are certain circumstances where the injured player must leave the game entirely.
The most recurrent injury caused by a lacrosse ball hit is a simple bruise. I’ve seen a fair share of lacrosse shots hit my inadvertently hit my body and for each and every one of them, I woke up with a bruise the next day.
Luckily, these bruises aren’t too severe and will fully heal within a matter of weeks. You should be able to play in spite of the bruise, but the area where you received the hit may be tender while you’re playing.
Another frequent injury caused by lacrosse balls is a welt. Prior to lacrosse, I thought welts and bruises were the same thing. After witnessing a couple of my teammates take a few shots to the legs, however, I quickly learned the difference.
Where a bruise is a skin discoloration due to the pooling of blood, a welt is an elevated mark on the body (source). Back during my high school playing days, there were several occasions where I would accidentally catch our goalkeeper in the shins with my shot. He would come to practice with these dreadful welts where I hit him and I just remember feeling so bad! I guess it goes with the territory of being a goalkeeper.
The most serious injury that can potentially result from a lacrosse ball hit is a concussion.
Although every lacrosse player must wear a helmet when they’re on the field, there’s still a chance that a player can get a concussion if a loose shot smacks into their helmet. The likelihood for a concussion increases pointedly if the player is not wearing their helmet in the appropriate manner.
The helmet should fit snug against a player’s head. If the helmet fits too loose, there is opportunity for the head to rattle against the helmet when contact is made. If your head rattles whenever you collide with another helmet, this is a definitive sign that you need to tighten up your chinstrap.
The padding should fit tightly around all aspects of the player’s head. This way, the helmet could actually cushion the impact and do a superior job of ensuring the safety of the player.
Unfortunately, not all lacrosse players do this. They wear their helmet loose in favor of comfort over safety. Thus, when a fast moving lacrosse ball strikes their helmet, they’re left with a concussion because their helmet wasn’t strapped on correctly.
In short, take the extra time to fit your helmet on properly. Concussions are a real danger with errant lacrosse shots.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Getting Hit by a Lacrosse Ball
With all this talk of how much lacrosse balls hurt, you may have developed an irrational fear of being hit with a lacrosse ball. Although this pain is a possibility in lacrosse, it’s not something that you should constantly worry about.
Goalkeepers get hit with lacrosse balls practically every outing, yet they still come back day after day to play the sport they love. This just goes to show that although being hit with a lacrosse ball hurts, it’s not so severe that it should drive you away from the game altogether.
Nonetheless, I can understand that it will take some time to build up to playing without the constant fear of getting hit with a lacrosse ball. To help ease you out of this adjustment period, I’ve provided a few effective ways that will help to slowly dismiss this anxiety.
Practice with Tennis Balls (or Swax Lax Balls)
One potent method of disregarding the fear of being hit with a lacrosse ball is practicing with tennis balls on your own time.
Lacrosse coaches utilize this tactic to help goalkeepers dismiss the notion of being hit with a shot and instead focus on their reflexive stick maneuvers. As these goalkeepers gather a mass of repetitions under their belt, they soon forget about the possibility of getting hit altogether.
Keep in mind that this strategy doesn’t strictly apply to goalies. Regular field players could use this tactic as well to get used to being around a fast moving ball while simultaneously learning the fundamental techniques of lacrosse. Compared to lacrosse balls, tennis balls don’t hurt one bit.
Although tennis balls are a safe alternative to lacrosse balls, they do not quite mimic the feel of a lacrosse ball entirely. Obviously, tennis balls were made for tennis, not lacrosse. An even better alternative to practicing with tennis balls would be to play around with Swax Lax Balls.
Swax Lax Balls are resemblant of lacrosse balls in their overall weight and shape, but they’re far softer than the standard lacrosse ball. They’re designed specifically for the purpose of helping younger lacrosse players overcome their fear of being hit with the ball. In my opinion, this is a remarkable product for lacrosse beginners that need a little bit of a nudge in the right direction.
If you want a full review on Swax Lax balls, check out the video below where Greg from East Coast Dyes offers his thoughts on the product.
Wear Accessory Protective Equipment
Another route that you could experiment with is investing in additional accessory protective equipment.
Lacrosse players are only required to wear the following equipment:
- Shoulder Pads
- Arm Pads
- Protective Cup
To start off, I would recommend purchasing bulkier protective equipment to better safeguard against injury. You may have to sacrifice some mobility, but this shouldn’t be a problem if safety is your main priority.
What most players do not realize is that there are other accessories that lacrosse players are allowed to wear. Some optional pieces of lacrosse equipment are listed below:
- Bicep Pads
- Rib Pads
- Padded Compression Shorts
- Shin Guards (for goalies)
If you do not yet feel comfortable playing on the lacrosse field, these pieces of accessory equipment might help give you an extra vote of confidence. Overcoming your fear of the lacrosse ball is largely a mental game. If you wearing some additional equipment on the field helps you disregard this fear, I would say go for it!
As a side note, certain lacrosse players consider a protective cup as an accessory piece of equipment. This could not be farther from the truth. When you’re out playing on the field, you need to wear a protective cup. I cannot stress this point enough. Taking a 70 to 80 mph shot to the groin will do catastrophic damage if you refuse to wear a cup. So just do it!
You can find more information on whether or not the average lacrosse player wears a protective cup by clicking over to my article Do You Have to Wear a Protective Cup in Lacrosse?
The Bottom Line
The main takeaway here is that lacrosse shots hurt. If you play lacrosse long enough, you’re bound to get hit by a shot at one point or another. When it happens, it will definitely not feel pleasant but you will soon realize that the pain is only temporary.
You shouldn’t agonize over the prospect of being hit with a lacrosse shot because, all in all, it isn’t that severe. The possibility of being on the wrong end of a lacrosse shot shouldn’t be the reason that you abandon your lacrosse ambitions. So go out and join your local lacrosse league! You won’t regret it.