There are many people out there that are interested in lacrosse that have a particular curiosity about the nature of the lacrosse ball. Given that players hurl the ball as fast as they can virtually every other play, it’s only natural to ask whether or not lacrosse balls are hard.
Lacrosse balls are hard. They’re comprised of a solid rubber material that is found throughout the entire ball, from the surface to the core. All lacrosse balls possess a hard composition because they must pass NOCSAE standards regarding compression deflection load and coefficient of restitution.
The big words associated with the NOCSAE standards may seem overly complex at first, but they’re really not. We will delve into how these NOCSAE standards force all lacrosse balls to be hard along with several facts that validate this claim.
How NOCSAE Standards Make All Lacrosse Balls Hard
For those of you that do not know, NOCSAE stands for National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (source). They act as the governing body to ensure that all lacrosse equipment meets certain regulations to create a safer environment for players.
All lacrosse balls must adhere to NOCSAE standards in order to be legal for play. If you look closely on a lacrosse ball, there is a brief statement engraved onto the surface that says, “Meets NOCSAE Standards” (source).
In order to meet NOCSAE standards, lacrosse balls must pass a series of tests. The ones that we’re concerned about are the compression deflection load test and the coefficient of restitution test.
Compression Deflection Load Test
Essentially, the compression deflection load test is performed to ensure that newly manufactured lacrosse balls are able to withstand a certain threshold of pressure.
To begin, the ball is placed under a heavy amount of weight, which ultimately compresses it. The pressure is steadily increased until the ball’s diameter is a fourth of what it normally is. At this time, the amount of pressure withstood by the ball is measured and recorded.
In order to be deemed legal for play, the recorded pressure value must fall within 180 lbs to 210 lbs (source). Anything outside of this range and the lacrosse ball will be considered illegal.
This test ultimately requires that newly made lacrosse balls reach a certain level of hardness prior to distribution. Any soft lacrosse balls would fail this test and would never make it to the field.
Coefficient of Restitution Test
The coefficient of restitution test is another standard that lacrosse balls must pass to be considered legal for general play. Again, this test sounds super complicated, but it’s easy to understand when someone puts it in plain English.
The premise of this test is to measure how much energy the ball maintains after it rebounds off of another solid object. A specially made device at NOCSAE throws lacrosse balls at a designated strike plate. The initial velocity of the lacrosse ball as it releases from this device is recorded. After the ball rebounds off the strike plate, the final velocity is also recorded.
From here, a ratio is taken of the final velocity of the ball to its initial velocity, otherwise known as the coefficient of restitution (source).
The coefficient of restitution must be between 0.60 to 0.70 in order to pass this test (source). To attain this coefficient of restitution, lacrosse balls have to be hard to rebound off of the strike plate and maintain a sufficient velocity. A soft lacrosse ball would cushion the impact, resulting in a complete loss of the initial velocity. In short, this is yet another NOCSAE standard that ensures that lacrosse balls achieve a particular level of hardness.
Facts That Further Prove Lacrosse Balls are Hard
To further demonstrate that lacrosse balls are hard, I compiled a couple of intriguing facts below. Needless to say, lacrosse balls are nothing like hacky sacks!
Fact #1: Lacrosse Balls are Made Up of the Same Material as Hockey Pucks
What many people fail to realize is that lacrosse balls are composed of the same primary ingredient that is used in hockey pucks. Both lacrosse balls and hockey pucks mainly consist of vulcanized rubber (source).
If you’ve ever felt a hockey puck before, you know that “soft” wouldn’t be the term to describe its complexion. It’s completely solid, with no cushioning whatsoever. Lacrosse balls feel the same exact way.
From an outside perspective, it’s hard to link these two together. I was actually unaware of this correlation prior to conducting some research of my own. It’s easy for people to believe that hockey uses hard rubber pucks because every player is covered in protective gear from head to toe. With lacrosse, players have noticeable gaps in protection, particularly on the legs. This is why people find it so hard to believe that lacrosse balls are just as hard as hockey pucks.
Fact #2: Lacrosse Ball Doesn’t Have Cement at its Core, Contrary to Popular Opinion
Many people that hold a lacrosse ball in their hands for the first time are somewhat surprised to find that it has a little bit of weight to it. Not so much to be a burden, but enough to be a little bit taken back.
Certain individuals are so utterly shocked that they come up with some ludicrous postulations as to what lies at the center of a lacrosse ball. The most bizarre postulation I’ve heard is that the core of the lacrosse ball is filled with cement.
I can assure you that this is completely false. If the core of a lacrosse ball were filled with cement, I guarantee that there would be considerably more injuries in the sport of lacrosse than there are presently. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, you can check out the video below of someone who actually took the time to cut open a lacrosse ball to reveal what’s inside.
As you can see, the inside of a lacrosse ball is only made of rubber. There’s no hidden material concealed within. Although lacrosse balls are hard, they aren’t hard enough to have cement in them.
Fact #3: The More that You Play with a Lacrosse Ball, the Harder It Will Feel
In addition, a little known fact is that lacrosse balls will feel harder the longer that you play with them.
When a lacrosse ball comes freshly out of the box, the surface of the ball is textured and grippy. Over time, this grippy surface texture wears away due to physical abuse, overexposure to the elements, and the harsh effects of UV rays.
Eventually, almost all of the surface grip wears away, which causes the ball to be slick and shiny. This practice is so common that lacrosse players even came up the nickname of greasers to describe these slick lacrosse balls.
You can find more information about what greasers are and how they could harm your lacrosse performance by clicking over to my article What is a Greaser in Lacrosse? (& How Does it Affect Play?)
In addition to becoming more slick and shiny, greasers tend to feel harder as well. The reason for this has to do with the contents of the lacrosse ball, a concept we touched on earlier.
You know that lacrosse balls are mostly made up of vulcanized rubber. However, what you probably don’t know is that there are also traces of oils and plasticizers infused within the lacrosse ball itself. As you play with a lacrosse ball more, physical wear and tear and overexposure to UV rays causes these oils and plasticizers to separate out and rise up to the ball’s surface. From there, the oils and plasticizers solidify, leaving the ball feeling harder than it did originally.
Are Lacrosse Balls Hard Enough to Cause Significant Injury?
Now that you know for certain that lacrosse balls are hard, you’re likely wondering how the resolute nature of these balls relates to the prospect of injury.
Lacrosse balls are hurdled around at a high velocity in lacrosse. It’s an integral part of the game. As a result, there are times where mistakes happen and players do get caught in the line of fire. Unfortunately, injuries do occur as a direct consequence of this.
The average speed of a lacrosse shot is anywhere from 70 to 80 miles per hour. With a hard, solid rubber ball moving at those kinds of speeds and then colliding with another lacrosse player, it’s hard to imagine that any normal human being would come out unscathed.
Most Injuries that Result from Lacrosse Balls are Not Severe
Luckily, the typical injuries that result from these erratic throws are not that severe. The majority of the time, players that get hit with a shot only come away with a welt or bruise. It may feel painful at first, but there’s not any long lasting injury effects.
I actually speak from personal experience on this topic. Being predominantly an offensive midfielder, there were several times where I was stationed on the crease at the wrong place at the wrong time. Those two or three times where I got hit, it didn’t feel good. However, after I sat out for a play or two, I felt good enough to return to action.
Serious Injuries are Less Common, But Definitely Possible
This is not to say that all instances where players get with shots are petty injuries. There are times where serious injuries could result. For example, concussions are a real possibility if a player takes a shot to the helmet. Although helmets do help tremendously to cushion the impact, there’s only so much they can do.
Another real danger that many lacrosse players don’t take seriously are groin injuries. If you aren’t wearing a protective cup and take a shot to the groin, there could be serious damage done. To put it bluntly, just wear a cup. It’s not worth the risk.
Swax Lax Balls: The Safe Alternative to Hard Lacrosse Balls
Due to the potential for injury, there is a considerable number of athletes that enter into the sport of lacrosse with a strong fear of getting hit with the ball. This prevents them from ever grasping the basic fundamentals, such as throwing and catching.
Often times, these players just need an adjustment period to get into the groove of things and overcome their fear. Fortunately, there’s a healthy alternative to hard lacrosse balls that resemble lacrosse balls in virtually every regard besides its hard complexion. This healthy alternative is called the Swax Lax Ball.
This way, if a player does end up getting hit with an errant throw, it won’t hurt them at all.
Swax Lax Balls are very popular among youth lacrosse players. It helps them hone in on the fundamental maneuvers of lacrosse and build confidence in their stick skills. They don’t have to be afraid of any passes that come their way. It helps them grow to feel comfortable around lacrosse balls, until eventually they can move on to the real thing.
Words don’t do this product justice, so check out this review by Greg from East Coast Dyes to get an even better indication of how the Swax Lax Ball fares.
Just like you need a set of training wheels to learn how to ride a bike, some players need to train with Swax Lax Balls to learn how to play lacrosse. If you fit into this category, I highly recommend you check this product out!
The Bottom Line
It’s undeniable that lacrosse balls are hard. Given their solid rubber makeup, it definitely hurts to be on the wrong end of a lacrosse shot. Fortunately, it isn’t the end of the world if you do end up getting hit with a lacrosse ball since the majority of injuries are minor.
But if you’re struggling with learning the basics of lacrosse due to fear of injury, you should consider investing in some Swax Lax Balls. They’re a remarkably safe way to learn lacrosse.