The Power of the Stick: Rehabbing Lacrosse Injuries

Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States today. An article from the Healio Orthopedics Journal in 2007 states that the overall growth rate since 2003 has been 41%. Since 1995 the number of varsity high school teams in the U.S. has grown 200%. With such a fast growth in popularity, orthopedic surgeons as well as physical therapists will be called to treat patients with injuries that are unique to the game.

According to the NCAA, lacrosse is considered a “collision sport”; however, it has a lower reported injury rate compared to other intercollegiate collision sports. Lacrosse has been rated as seventh overall in game injury rate. It has been reported that most injuries above the waist are due to direct trauma, whereas injuries below the waist are the result of non-contact mechanisms, cutting, pivoting, or rolling. According to the NCAA, the most frequently injured body parts are the ankle, upper leg, and knee, which when combined, account for 48% of injuries in lacrosse.

Physical therapists have unique and effective exercises that are utilized to rehab any lacrosse injury from head to toe. Due to the nature of the game, every player carries and uses his or her stick, which can often be incorporated in rehab. While playing on the field, an athlete uses the stick to check, throw, pass, catch, shoot, block, guard, or push, which limits upper-body strategies for maintaining balance during locomotion. A study from the Experimental Brain Research Journal suggests that  “…whole-body balance corrective strategies employed during walking are selected based upon the demands of the general features of the task, but that components of the strategy are scaled according to the specific context-dependent needs of the task.” This article validates the use of a lacrosse stick in later stages of lower-extremity rehab, to increase balance and joint preconception when sport-specific activities are being strengthened. Increasing upper-extremity stick skills can help to improve reaction and balance for lower extremities based on the specific task being performed, whether it’s passing, catching, or shooting.

Physical therapy programs are individualized to a patient’s specific goals, including the timeline for a return to the sport and athletic competition. At Sports PT, we utilize evidence-based strategies and exercises to optimize physical performance. As the sport of lacrosse grows in popularity, so will our knowledge and expertise in treating and returning players to the game.