Lacrosse players often experience head and eye injuries, and concussions, due to the full contact nature of the sport or being hit in the head with the stick or rubber ball. Athletes may also experience ankle sprains due to stepping on another player’s foot or on uneven ground on the field. Learn how to treat and prevent injuries to the head, eye and ankle.
Lacrosse – Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments of the ankle become stretched beyond their normal position, often due to inversion (rolling your ankle). In lacrosse, most sprains occur on the lateral side (outside) of the ankle and can occur by stepping on another player’s foot, stepping on uneven ground or into a hole on the field.
Some people are more prone to ankle sprains due to genetics — being “loose-jointed” or having hypermobility in the joints. In addition, if you have sprained an ankle before, you may be more likely to sprain it again due to the ligaments stretching out and becoming lax as opposed to completely returning to their original length and level of stability.
Treating Ankle Sprains
When you sprain your ankle, you will experience immediate pain and swelling, localized in the ankle joint area. The best treatment is a R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) routine to reduce swelling and discoloration. Ice should be immediately applied to the injured ankle to provide pain relief and decrease circulation to the joint to reduce swelling. Applying a compression wrap and elevating the ankle above heart level will also reduce swelling. If you feel it is necessary, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be taken as directed.
Athletes who know they are prone to ankle sprains should wear a brace to provide extra support to the ankle. It is best to purchase a brace that has laces so you can loosen and tighten as feels comfortable to you. If it is an acute or new ankle sprain, it is a good idea to have an athletic trainer tape the ankle to provide extra compression and support.
Initial rehab of a sprained ankle includes beginning range of motion exercises a day or two after the injury, followed by strengthening exercises once full motion has returned. Return to sport can occur once pain and swelling have subsided and the athlete can demonstrate running, cutting (changing direction) and jumping drills without limping or having weakness.
Lacrosse – Concussion
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when the head is hit, temporarily affecting how the brain works. In men’s lacrosse, concussions are the number-one injury, due to the full, body-to-body contact nature of the sport. Helmets are worn to protect the head from lacerations, but do not prevent concussions. Female lacrosse differs in that it is not a full contact sport and players do not wear helmets. Therefore, more female lacrosse players suffer from head injuries and concussions due to inadvertently being hit in the head with a stick. Head injuries and concussions can also occur from getting hit in the head with the hard, rubber ball, which reaches speeds up to 60 miles per hour in female lacrosse and 90 miles per hour in men’s lacrosse.
Concussions can vary dramatically from person to person. Therefore, treatment is based on symptoms and how the athlete feels. Symptoms of a concussion include:
- Difference in pupil size
- Mental confusion
- Memory loss
- Ringing in the ears
- Changes in balance
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Noticeable changes upon wakening
- Seizure activity
- Irregular pulse or respiration
In the state of Indiana, the ImPACT Test (an online neurocognitive assessment) is used to determine if an athlete is able to return to play after suffering a concussion. Athletes take the “baseline” assessment at the beginning of the season to evaluate their reaction time, memory and recognition when their brain is normal and functioning. This serves as a baseline for comparison following a concussion and will be considered (along with the presence of any symptoms at rest and with exertion) to help the physician determine when it is safe for the athlete to return to sport.
If you believe you’ve suffered a concussion, you should see a physician immediately.