Lacrosse Training- Preventing Ankle and Lower Leg Injuries (Part I of a 3 Part Series)
by Matthew Wernikoff, Sports Performance Coach, Champion Athletes
I am often get asked by parents if Lacrosse is a dangerous sport and if their children are at undue risk of injury by playing Lacrosse. While Lacrosse is the fastest growing team sport in the United States, the NCAA has studied it extensively and found no basis to put Lacrosse in the same league as Rugby or Football. While it is listed as a full contact sport, the majority of injuries to Lacrosse players are lower leg injuries with broken bones and spinal cord injuries very rare. The fear comes from a lack of knowledge about the sport; previously lacrosse was primarily an East Coast and Canadian sport, however, with its recent rise in popularity it is quickly becoming one of the most popular sport for children all across the country.
With the rise in popularity also comes an increase in reported injuries. But this is a fairly logical progression, more players equals more injuries. Knowing what these common injuries are and what you can do to prevent them is key to ensuring you or your children have a long and successful Lacrosse season and career. For all or my lacrosse athletes I put together a program that aims to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. In this three part series we will look at the three most common types of injuries, their causes and what you can do to prevent them.
Ankle injuries account for 21% of reported injuries in female lacrosse players and 16% of male players. Why are injuries to ankles so common in scholastic age lacrosse players? The most likely causes are due to:
- Lacrosse requires a great deal of stopping, changing directions, pivoting and explosive movements. These types of movements place a great deal of stress on the ankle and the associated muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the ankle.
- Conditioning: On average a middie may run between 1.5 and 3 miles, although games of 4 to 5 miles is not uncommon. Average sprints for players can cover between 3o and 50 yards at a time. The fatigue from running can not only lead to muscle weakness it can also lead to mental fatigue making players less focused to dangers such as stepping on someone’s foot or proper bracing from checks and hits from other players.
- Flexibility: Flexibility is something that many programs and coaches only have a a small amount of time to focus on. With limited time for practices and scrimmages this aspect of training is often one of the most rushed or overlooked aspects of training. Players with a limited Range of Motion (ROM) are more susceptible to injuries when they are required to change directions suddenly or pushed beyond the normal ROM during the course of a game or practice.
Other Common Lower Body Injuries:
- Shin Splints: These can be debilitating in some cases and are primarily caused from poor flexibility of the Tibialis Anterior muscle and overtraining.
- Planter Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. This tissue is called the plantar fascia. It connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. Planter Fasciitis can be extremely painful, particularly for an athlete who has to cut or move laterally. In young athletes it is most commonly caused due to poor flexibility in the Achilles Tendon. It can also be caused by shoes or cleats that are too small or tight.
- Turf Toe: This very painful injury can happen when your shoes or cleats are too small, your cleats grab the turf more than they are supposed to, or another player falls into the calf area of your leg from behind when your toe is planted in the ground and it hyper-extends the joint of the toe.
Exercises to Prevent Lacrosse Injuries: Lacrosse Strength Training Done Right
- Stretching: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic stretches should be done at the start of a training session or practice and static stretching should be done after practices during your cool down. A cooling down period after any exercise program or practice is very important to increasing and maintaining flexibility. There are many dynamic stretches out there and a good training program for lacrosse players should include movements that closely mimic the stresses of the game; lateral lunges and plyo-metric movements that require direction changes and angles will help prevent injuries.
- Plyo-metric exercises: With all of our Lacrosse players we make sure to include a great deal of plyo-metric exercises. Here is a sample video from, CSCS, Jay Dyer, demonstrating some important exercises for Lacrosse players.
- Conditioning: Athletes should incorporate long distance running as well as interval sprint training into their conditioning program. You should run 2-4 miles for time 2-3 times a week in the off season, with 1-2 days of sprints per week. Sprints should be of no more than 50 yards and you should make sure to give yourself enough recovery time between sets. In season you should cut down your long distance running (outside of practice workouts) to 1-2 times a week and increase sprint workouts to 2-3 times a week. Many of our athletes prefer to train in the Champion Athletes Hypoxic Chamber in season rather than run outside or on a track. For more information about our Hypoxic Chamber Training Program Click Here.
- Proper hydration and nutrition has been shown to decrease recovery time, improve endurance and aid in flexibility. To learn more about Champion Athletes Nutrition Programs and the benefits of Nutrition Programs in General click here.
The biggest thing we tell all of our athletes and parents is preventing these injuries is much easier and takes far less time than treating them and recovering from them. Wearing proper fitting shoes, getting the proper conditioning work and outside training and maintaining proper hydration and eating well are far easier than the alternative. For more information about our training programs you can check out our sports performance page or contact us here.
And if you do get injured don’t forget that our specialists can help you recover faster and come back stronger than before!