Lacrosse requires physically demanding sport was first played by Native Indian tribesmen in North America. To score, you have to shoot a small rubber ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long handled racket.
Lacrosse was also called baggataway, tewaarathon and deconchigwiis. It has deep spiritual roots in native culture and was thought of as “The Creator’s Game.” It was believed to impart important lessons in courage, honor, respect and strength, and was often played to settle disputes between rival tribes as well as to train warriors for battle. Played with several hundred players, a game of tribesmen’s Lacrosse could last 3 days or longer.
The game was named Lacrosse by the French missionary Jean de Brébeuf in the 1600’s. William George Beers formed the Montreal Lacrosse Club and the modern rules in 1867. The sport was originally played outdoors but can now be played indoors as well.
With hundreds of Lacrosse teams the world over, the sport is predominantly played in Canada and the United States and on a smaller scale in the UK and Australia.
The Muscles Involved
Competitive lacrosse players must be in excellent condition due the extremely demanding physical nature of the sport. In order to successfully play the game an athlete must rely on a range of fitness skill sets. Players need strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. Cardiovascular health is also an extremely important part of a player’s ability as they are required to sprint 25 to 50 yards at regular intervals as they move their way up and down the 110 yard playing field.
The primary muscles used by participants are the quadriceps and hamstrings (front and back of thigh), trapezius and rhomboids (neck, shoulder and back), calves (lower legs), biceps, triceps, flexor carpi radialis and flexor carpi ulinaris (upper and lower arm). There are several other muscles used to assist this primary group and these include the chest, hip flexors, obliques and abdominals.
The quadriceps are the four major muscles in the thigh region. These consist of the rectus femoris (middle of the thigh), the vastus lateralis (outer thigh), the vastus medialis (inner thigh) and the vastus intermedius, which is situated up top at the front of thigh and lies between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis. The quads are important for hip flexion, knee extension and are crucial to running, walking, jumping and squatting; all frequent body movements performed while playing.
Located at the back of the thigh, the hamstrings are actually made up of three separate muscles; the bicep femoris, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus. Much like the quadriceps, the hamstrings also work to support knee extension and hip flexion. The gastrocnemius and the soleus are more commonly known as the calf muscles, and these too are actively engaged when playing lacrosse.
The trapezius runs down the side of the spine from the base of the skull to the mid back and stretches across the shoulder area. A player actively uses both this and the rhomboids, also located in the back. These muscles work in conjunction with the triceps, biceps and forearm muscles to throw the ball. The forearm muscles and biceps are also the ones used to cradle a lacrosse stick.
The motion of throwing the ball involves the utilization of the core muscles in the torso. The rectus abdominis and obliques in the abdominal region together with the latissimus dorsi in the lower back play an important role in the quality of an athlete’s game. They assist the player in maintaining a good defensive body position and offer support when twisting the body toward the cage while shooting.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that help to provide free range of motion allowing the body to bend in to the hips, and the hips to be pulled in towards the torso. Squats and abdominal crunches are good examples of the hip flexors in motion. Strong hip flexors can not only increase speed and performance while sprinting, but can also work to prevent injury.
- Ankle sprain.
- Head and face contusion.
- Knee sprain (ACL, MCL)
- Wrist fracture.
- Hip flexor strain.
- Low back pain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
To help reduce the potential for sports related injuries it is important to condition the body through regular training and exercise.
- Equipment: Using high quality protective equipment that has been maintained properly will help prevent many injuries.
- Warm up: It is also crucial to have a regular warm up routine that prepares the body for the physically challenging demands of the activity. Warming up will gradually increase blood flow to the muscles in preparation for more intense activity. Failure to incorporate a warm up routine can not only create severe post activity muscle soreness, it can also lead to more serious and painful injuries that require lengthy recovery periods or even surgery to repair.
- Strength & Conditioning: Strength training leads to reduced potential for injury as it increases the strength of the muscles as well as that of the supporting joints and tendons. Agility training is particularly helpful to a lacrosse player as it works to improve the ability of the body to quickly adapt to a change in direction, motion and velocity.
- Stretching: Stiff joints and muscles will ultimately lead to injured joints and muscles so improving the flexibility of the body will also work to decrease the likelihood of injury. Stretching is a key ingredient to any warm up routine and plays an important role in improving flexibility as it increases the range of motion in joints and the elasticity of muscles.
The Top 3 Lacrosse Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for lacrosse; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.
Physical Therapy in for Lacrosse
Overall stretching is an essential part of playing lacrosse. A good stretching routine can help to minimize muscle imbalances, prevent injury, and improve your exercise tolerance and your lacrosse performance. The following stretching program is designed for lacrosse players who do not have any current injuries or individual stretching needs. If you have an injury, or a specific mechanical imbalance that may be holding back your lacrosse performance, your Caruso Physical Therapist and Nutrition, LLC. can design a stretching program more specific for you.
Dr. Joseph P. Caruso PT, dPT, MSPT, CMT, CSCS
Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition, LLC
1278 Yardville Allentown Rd. Suite 3
Allentown, NJ 08501