Lacrosse players have a bunch of strange terms that they like to throw around pertaining to specific aspects of the sport. The term warp is one of them.
The term “warp” describes a lacrosse head that alters its shape without you purposefully doing so. A warped head is characterized by excessive flexibility, noticeable stress points in the plastic, and an unnaturally tight pinch. These elements compromise the structural integrity of the head.
That is the basic gist of what warp means in lacrosse. However, there is a lot more to warp than just that simple three sentence summary. You likely want to know about how long until a lacrosse head starts to warp, the various factors that cause a lacrosse head to warp, and how to prevent your lacrosse head from getting warped. All of these specific topics will be discussed in detail below.
The Meaning of Warp in Lacrosse
There are different severity levels of warp when it comes to lacrosse heads. Heads that are only somewhat warped may only have lost a bit of stiffness and may feature a slightly tighter pinch from what its original face shape once was.
On the other hand, heads that are severely warped have a noticeably deformed shape, possibly to the point of being illegal. There are specific measurements that a lacrosse head must maintain in order to fall within the realm of legality. For example, if the head is warped so severely that the pinch of the head shortens the width at the midline of the head to under 3 inches, the head is deemed illegal.
To learn more about the specific rules surrounding lacrosse head legality, check out my in depth article What Makes a Lacrosse Stick Illegal: An Illustrated Guide.
In addition to the danger of illegality, lacrosse heads that tend to warp do not perform nearly as well on the field as a normal lacrosse head. As aforementioned, warped heads lack stiffness. This makes certain aspects of play difficult since the head falters and changes shape as the tiniest bit of pressure is applied.
Take ground balls for example. To properly pick up the ground ball, you have to dig your head parallel over the ground surface to scoop through the ground ball. With a warped lacrosse head, the structure of the head loses its shape as the top of the head contacts the ground. This unpredictable loss of shape can cause you to misjudge your angle to the ball, which will significantly hurt your chances of coming out with possession.
When a lacrosse head is warped, it is relatively easy to tell, especially once you’ve developed an eye for it. It is important to identify because head warping is something that you as a player want to avoid. For this reason, I provided a picture below of a head that would be considered mildly warped versus a normal lacrosse head.
Earlier, I listed a couple of telltale signs that characterize a warped lacrosse head. In the subsequent paragraphs, I will analyze these markers in greater depth to help you differentiate between a quality condition lacrosse head and a warped lacrosse head.
Some manufactured lacrosse heads are intentionally flexible, whereas others are intentionally rigid. Either way, warped lacrosse heads are even more pliable than the point of flexibility they originally started at. You may assume that this is good for players who are looking for a more flexible head. This is not the case.
Heads that flex more than they were designed to are pushing beyond the boundaries than they were meant to function. Repetitively flexing the head above its natural capacity weakens the head tremendously. To put it simply, weakened lacrosse heads do not coincide well with live gameplay.
Weakened lacrosse heads change shape on a whim, which may detract from your throwing and shooting accuracy. If the head abruptly changes shape during the middle of your throw even by a few degrees, do you truly believe that you will throw with pinpoint accuracy on a consistent basis? I think not.
Unnaturally Tight Pinch
Warped lacrosse heads also have a strikingly narrower face shape compared to normal lacrosse heads.
Head warping causes the head to lose its structural integrity. Once this process initiates, you will notice the head start to elongate ever so slightly as the lateral framework of the head presses in closer together. This happens regardless of whether the head was wide or narrow to begin with. Whatever diameter that the originally started at, the warping process will compress this distance even further.
Noticeable Stress Points in Plastic
The next telltale sign of head warping is discernible stress points in the plastic. All lacrosse heads have particular stress points where the brunt of the force is absorbed into the plastic. As a head progressively warps, these stress points become more and more apparent.
In short, this is not something you want to see on your lacrosse head. The more prominent that a stress point is on a lacrosse head, the more likely it is for the head to fracture at that point. No lacrosse player wants to have a broken head on thier hands.
Take my Warrior Evo X for example. Around one of the contours of the lacrosse head, there is a subtle white tint in the carolina blue color where the plastic is absorbing the most pressure. In addition, the angle of the contour is far more severe relative to the contour on the other side of the head. In the picture below, you can see what I mean by discernible stress points in the plastic.
Once I noticed these for the first time, I just brushed them off as nothing to be worried about. Little did I know that a few weeks later, the head would fracture at one of the stress points I had my eye on.
This is a prime example of how head warping could pave the way for a broken head. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way.
How Long Does It Take Until a Lacrosse Head Starts to Warp?
With all of the negatives that come with head warping, you are likely curious as to the exact timeline of this process. Surely, you want to at least be prepared for this eventuality whenever it does come.
The answer to this question is somewhat complicated since there are a variety of factors that either accelerate or delay this timeline substantially. Nonetheless, I provided my best approximate timeline for the average lacrosse player in the table below. This will aid you in knowing what level of warping to expect in the life span of your lacrosse head.
|Seasons Played with Lacrosse Head||Severity of Warping|
|2 to 3 Seasons||– early signs of warping|
– hardly noticeable
|4 to 5 Seasons||– moderate warping |
– tighter pinch
– elevated flexibility
|6 to 7 Seasons||– severe warping|
– acute pinch
– critical lack of structural integrity
I organized the time column by seasons because they provide a better unit of measurement in relation to warping. For example, players that participate on a school team and club team play year around in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. This would count as four seasons. In contrast, lacrosse players that do not play on a club team exclusively play in the spring. Thus, they would only play one season.
From the chart above, a good time to start paying attention to warping is around the 4 to 5 season mark. At this point, the head has been in the trenches for a considerable period of time and the effects of warping will start to come into fruition.
To understand why the timeline for warping varies from player to player, it is necessary to understand the distinct factors that cause a lacrosse head to warp.
What are the Factors That Cause a Lacrosse Head to Warp?
Although time certainly a point of consideration in the head warping process, it is not the only element that must be taken into account. There are several more prominent factors that contribute to expediting head warping.
First on this list is the influence of excessive heat. Hot temperatures and plastic do not go well together. Hot climates heat up the plastic of the lacrosse head, causing the shape of the head to deform as it heats up further and further. This is the reason why lacrosse heads are so much more rigid during games at the beginning of the season rather than the end of the season.
If you play lacrosse in a location that has a hot climate year around, such as Florida, it is likely that your head will warp much more quickly than someone playing up in Michigan, for example.
Face-offs also accelerate the warping process. Players that take face-offs deliberately put all their weight toward flexing their head to get the most amount of leverage possible on their opponent. Obviously, this is a tremendous amount of pressure to place on a lacrosse head. Over time, as a head undergoes a considerable number of face-offs, this extensive pressure adds up.
Consequently, the head loses its original shape and is extremely flexible because its structural integrity has been lost. Ask any face-off player about how many lacrosse heads they run through in a year and you will be astounded by the answer. I know my old high school face-off buddy once went through three heads in one season!
Face-off players encounter the problem of head warp far more than any other position in lacrosse. So next time you go to practice, just take a gander at the stick that your team’s face-off player is using. I will bet that their stick will look a lot more mangled than what you’re accustomed to.
Repetitive Abuse from Gameplay
Finally, general abuse from natural gameplay will also speed up the warping process. The more you play, the greater the likelihood of your head getting warped. That comes with the territory of lacrosse.
If you’re a defenseman, you have to constantly throw checks with your lacrosse head. If you’re an attackman, your head has to withstand constant checks. Midfielders have to deal with both. This physical damage continually builds until the inevitable warping process begins.
In short, heads are not meant to last forever. Play long enough and you’re bound to invest into a new lacrosse head.
How Do You Prevent a Lacrosse Head From Getting Warped?
All lacrosse heads get warped if you use them enough. However, there are certain preventative measures that you can take to delay this process for as long as possible. These measures directly counteract the warping factors we just discussed.
Keep Your Lacrosse Stick Out of the Sun Whenever Possible
I understand that playing with your lacrosse stick out in the sun during games is unavoidable. However, when you’re not using your stick in between games, put it back in your bag. Or at the very least keep it in the shade.
Allowing your lacrosse stick to bake in the sun is not optimal for protecting your lacrosse head from the effects of warping. If your stick is left out to sunbathe every summer tournament, the strength of your head is bound to wane. Put simply, just take the time to get your stick out of the sun’s harsh rays.
Avoid Intentionally Flexing Your Head
For whatever reason, youth lacrosse players like to constantly check the pliability of their head by purposefully flexing it with their hands. Some older lacrosse players are guilty of this as well.
Although this may seem petty, consistently pushing the flexibility of the head past its natural boundaries will almost certainly facilitate warping. It’s much like face-offs in this respect. The constant pressure accumulates over time until you’re left with a lacrosse head that is unable to return back to its original shape.
Stow Away Your Lacrosse Stick Properly
Once a practice is all said and done, it is tempting to throw your lacrosse stick in the car’s trunk and forget about it until your next lacrosse outing. Unfortunately, this lazy stowaway method is conducive to warping.
For one, laying down your lacrosse stick under the weight of all your heavy equipment will alter the shape of your lacrosse head as it is stored. Lacrosse heads are not meant to resist the burden of a heavy weight fixed on the plastic. Keeping your lacrosse head where there is no cumbersome weight pressing down on it is a good strategy to avoid warping.
Secondly, it gets hot in a car trunk. We talked about how heat facilitates warping earlier, but the heat of a car trunk is even more magnified than that of the outdoors. To delay the onset of warping, take your lacrosse stick out of the car trunk when you get home and throw it inside. That way, your lacrosse head is not baking like bread in the oven whenever it’s in storage.
Can You Fix a Warped Lacrosse Head?
If you’ve come to this article too late and your head is already warped, you probably want to know how to fix it. I’ve experimented with a few projects in the past to attempt to return some of my old lacrosse heads to their former glory. Most of these methods failed, but there was one that actually worked for me.
As a disclaimer, I would only recommend this method as a last resort. Only if you’re truly desperate should you try this strategy. This experiment will likely reduce the effects of warping, but don’t expect to make your lacrosse head brand new again. Once warping sets in, your lacrosse head will never be the same.
Hockey Puck and Hair Dryer… Yeah, It Actually Works
Out of all the methods I tried, the hockey puck and hair dryer method worked the best. It sounds whacky, but hear me out.
As aforementioned, one of the primary drawbacks of warping is that the head loses its original shape and becomes too pinched. This makes performing basic fundamental skills, such as catching, more challenging.
The hockey puck and hair dryer method counteracts this. To start, position a hockey puck in the middle of your lacrosse head so that the lateral edges of the plastic flare out. If you want to get a bit wider of a lacrosse head, use a softball. The purpose of this is to forcibly expand the diameter of the lacrosse head back to its original width.
Once the puck has been placed in the desired position, take a hair dryer and turn it up its hottest setting. From here, heat the plastic of the lacrosse head around the puck for ten to fifteen minutes. By heating the plastic, the lacrosse head becomes malleable, allowing you to revert it back to its original shape.
Following this process, allow the head to cool for fifteen minutes in the refrigerator with the puck (or softball) still in place. Cooling the head solidifies the original shape of the lacrosse head and prevents the plastic from regressing to the pinched shape once again.
And Voila! You have an un-pinched lacrosse head on your hands. It is important to note that while the original face shape may have returned, your head may be a bit more flexible than it was before. The more you heat up your lacrosse head, the more pronounced this flexibility difference becomes. So be weary of performing this method too many times if your head is already on the brink of structural vulnerabilty.