US Lacrosse's Return to Play Roadmap


This article appears in the July/August edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, a digital-only publication available exclusively to US Lacrosse members. Join or renew today for access to this 96-page edition, which includes immersive and interactive features as well as video tips from professional players. Thank you for your support!

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted lacrosse around the United States in a way never seen before. The cancellation and postponement of events touched every level of the sport, from youth leagues up through the professional ranks.

As the nation begins to reopen, the sport is also slowly starting to come back. Last month, US Lacrosse issued a set of return-to-play recommendations to help the lacrosse community make sound choices as leaders brought back the sport in their regions.

The US Lacrosse Return to Play medical advisory group, consisting of top medical professionals across multiple disciplines with strong connections to the sport, was chaired by Dr. Eugene Hong. Based in South Carolina, Hong is the chair of the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee and also serves on the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel. Representatives from key organizations within the sport also provided feedback to help shape the recommendations.

“These recommendations provide a strong foundation for lacrosse programs to plan for a gradual return,” Dr. Hong said. “The guidance will most certainly evolve over time as information about COVID-19 remains fluid and every community will be at a different phase of return, during this pandemic.”

The recommended return-to-play path includes five stages:

  • Stage 1 — At home individual training

  • Stage 2 — Small group (less than 10) modified lacrosse activity/practice focused on drills and individual work with social distancing requirements in effect for all aspects of training.

  • Stage 3 — Medium group (less than 50) modified intra-squad scrimmages/practices with limited closeness and contact.

  • Stage 4 — Medium group (less than 50) local competition/practices from teams within the same locale.

  • Stage 5 — Larger group gathering (more than 50) and full competition resumption with multiple teams from varied geographic areas.

Determining which stage a specific geographic area is in is not a simple task. Many states, and sometimes other local jurisdictions, have different restrictions in place regarding size of gatherings and allowed activities. Many states have also issue guidelines specifically related to youth sports.

The guidance issued by local government and public health authorities must be adhered to in all circumstances.

Following are some additional precautions that should help ensure player safety and reduce the risk of disease transmission:

  • Stay at home if you're sick — All participants should stay at home if they are feeling sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Sanitize equipment — Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and equipment and do not share equipment, water bottles or towels.

  • Check temperatures — If capability exists, temperature of participants should be taken using an infrared thermometer. Anyone with a temperature of 100.3 degrees or more should be sent home and evaluated by a licensed medical professional before being cleared to participate.

  • Minimize time together — And maximize the efficiency of team time. Any tasks that can be done at home (recovery sessions, online meetings) should be done at home.

  • Don't rush back — Before returning to practice, it’s imperative to conduct, at a minimum, a two-week period of guided athletic skills training. Athletes are more susceptible to injury following the extended downtime caused by the pandemic.

  • Wear masks — Face masks are required for staff, coaches, officials and designated adults serving as hygiene support for all practices and activities. Athletes may wear a face mask during lacrosse activity.

  • Play with smaller sides — As stages progress, consider competition formats that allow for fewer players on the field to help mitigate risk.

  • Modify game play — Consider modifications that minimize higher-risk activities by limiting extended closeness and contact between athletes.

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