Tag Archives: safety

NOCSAE Lacrosse Balls

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“As of January 1, 2014, all lacrosse balls used for play MUST meet NOCSAE standards and include the words ‘Meets NOCSAE Standard'” (NOCSAE Ball Mandate).

For those of you unfamiliar, NOCSAE is the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (www.nocsae.org). In 1969 NOCSAE “was formed to commission research directed toward injury reduction.” The goal of this organization is to reduce injury through research and effective standards. Notice that their goal is not the elimination of sports injuries as that is impossible and unrealistic. However, good standards for equipment are similar to good rules governing proper body contact. When both are properly applied the risk of injury goes down.

I want to be very clear on what a legal ball is in 2014 and what an illegal ball is in 2014. The image below shows both:


The white ball on the left side of the image is a legal lacrosse ball. It has the “Meets NOCSAE Standard” imprint. It also says NFHS and NCAA, but those markings do not matter according to the rule. All that matters is that the ball is imprinted/stamped with the phrase “Meets NOCSAE Standard.” That imprint means the lacrosse ball meets NOCSAE Ball Standards (PDF).

The orange ball on the right side of the image is an illegal lacrosse ball. While it bears the NFHS and “Meets NCAA Approve Specs” stamp it does not have “Meets NOCSAE Standard” label. Therefore the ball on the right is illegal and cannot be used during play.

When this rule was first published I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Then I read: USL – “What’s in a Ball?, and heard the story again from the rules committee at the 2014 USL National Convention. The cliff notes version is that a player was struck with a ball in practice off a missed shot. He was wearing a top of the line helmet, but a CT scan revealed a ruptured artery causing blood to fill his brain cavity. Fortunately the player received emergency brain surgery and he was back on the field for his senior season. I am not writing this to scare anyone, but to explain the facts. The mother didn’t understand how her son could have sustained such a serious injury with his brand new NOCSAE-approved helmet. The balls from practice were tested and did not meet NOCSAE standards.

The balls were either too hard or didn’t compress according to standards, and the NOCSAE-approved helmet is only rated to protect players from being struck in the helmet by a NOCSAE-standard ball. Once this was discovered the rules committee moved quickly and established a new note in the rulebook:

USL/NFHS Boys’ Rulebook – Rule 1, Section 5

The ball shall be white, yellow, orange or lime green and meet the current NOCSAE lacrosse ball standard. White balls shall be used unless both coaches agree prior to or during the game to use a yellow, orange or lime green ball. Game balls shall be supplied by the home team.

NOTE: Beginning in 2014, all game balls must include labeling which states: “Meets NOCSAE Standard”.

This is a serious safety issue. Home teams and/or youth leagues are required to provide and use only NOCSAE-standard lacrosse balls for play. If there are no NOCSAE balls, the officials are supposed to ask the visiting team if they have NOCSAE balls. If the visiting team has NOCSAE balls then the game is played with those balls but the home team loses the first face off as it is their responsibility to provide legal balls for a contest. If there are no NOCSAE balls at the game then the game DOES NOT start! Treat this situation as if you did not have a legally equipped goalkeeper. It is a major safety issue to not have a legally equipped goalkeeper on the field, and it is a major safety issue to not play with balls that meet NOCSAE standards.

If during the course of play all the NOCSAE balls are lost in the woods then play is suspended until the NOCSAE balls are found. If no NOCSAE balls can be found then the game is canceled, the referees will file a report, and the league or state administration will handle how the game is restarted at a later date according to league or state rules.

If a goal is scored and the ball is found to not be a NOCSAE ball then the goal counts, the ball is removed from the game, and a face off is conducted.

I cannot stress how important having NOCSAE-standard balls are for 2014. I already had one youth game that I delayed until NOCSAE balls were found, and I explicitly told both coaches that there would be no game if those balls were not found. This is a major safety issue and it should be treated as such by the coaches of both teams, the officials at the game, and the league/site administrator.

Common questions about these standards can be found here: USL Ball Standards FAQ (PDF)


New Rules For 2014

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new rules for 2014

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past six months you’ll know that major rule changes are being applied for the 2014 season from the highs school level all the way down to the little U9 players. A press release went out in August here: http://www.laxpower.com/laxnews/news.php?story=35972. A short while later US Lacrosse released the 2014 Boys Youth Lacrosse Rules

Since then additional information and comments have come out on the new rules from the NFHS:

Two videos have been published for the major rule changes and interpretations:

High School Rules Video

Boys Youth Rules Video

From removing horns, widening the substitution box, eliminating free clears for offside violations, and more severe penalties for body and stick checks to the head/neck there is a lot for players, coaches, fans, and officials to process. While AYL teams are gearing up for their first practices I’ll be posting in-depth analysis of the rule changes that most effect youth teams. Any questions about rules can always be sent to me at rules@ayllax.com.


Kids Need To Get Hurt

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When you work as a sports official you get used to people sensationalizing just about anything:

  • “If you don’t call that ref someone is going to get killed!”
  • “You must be the single worst official I have ever seen!”
  • “You aren’t keeping my players safe!”
  • “What did I [the coach] do? I didn’t do anything wrong, and if you say I did then you’re a liar!”

Context is huge is officiating. So when I see a sensationalized news story that either does not research the full context of a story, or eliminates a key piece of information that provides context, I like to wait and see what else comes out.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/10/07/long-island-middle-school-bans-footballs-other-recreational-items/ – This is the article that broke the story of a Long Island middle school banning “footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds.” As to be expected, every internet keyboard warrior came out in droves and responded to this article. Some stated that is this proof of the wussification of America, while others said that you can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting children. When I first read this article I had a strong reaction to it because the article was written in a way to get me to have a strong reaction and drive up viewership and comments on the article’s website. However, this CBS Local New York author did not include a major part which actually explains the situation more reasonably.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/09/living/parents-middle-school-bans-balls-recess/index.html – I waited one day, and sure enough a report from correspondent and editor-at-large Kelly Wallace actually put the sensationalized story into context. Apparently the Local CBS writer could not find the school’s press release stating that the ban on “footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds,” was also started due to construction nearby. Forcing kids to play their familiar and fun games in much closer proximity to one another, which increased the potential for injury. “Soft nerf balls will be provided during recess, and kids can play with hardballs during gym and intramural athletics” reported Kelly Wallace. That means that the ban that was sensationalized by the earlier article was really just a ban on items that could cause injury due to kids getting packed together because of the construction near the school.

Now, my beef with the CNN article is that while it provided much needed context about the school’s decision to ban fun things to play with at recess, it also had a sensational title. My tenth grade english teacher taught me that titles need to be exciting enough to grab the reader’s attention, but also tell the reader what they will read. Here is what both articles should have titled their reporting with:

Long Island Middle School Bans Hard Balls At Recess Due To Dangerous Construction Activity

See what I did there? It is still a punchy and exciting title, but it provides much needed context to a hot-button issue. Aside from the title, I have no problems with Kelly Wallace’s article. I do have an issue with just about everything in the CBS Local article, and here are a few sentences I have a problem with:

  • “Without helmets and pads, children are much more susceptible to getting hurt, experts said.” – Wow. I feel dumber after reading that. Of course pads and helmets protect children. Heck, they protect everyone! I’m still not going to put a kid in padded armor just so he or she can leave the house unattended or cross the street by themselves.
  • “They have instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds.” – Let’s examine that last point about anything that might hurt someone. That implies that schools should consider eliminating all hard surfaces kids could run into, sharp objects that kids could poke themselves with, small objects that kids could choke on, and hot foods that kids could burn their mouths with. The world is a dangerous place, and you can’t protect a child from everything. I’d rather the kid learn to not run full speed into a concrete wall when he’s four because the memory of not doing something that foolish will be burned into his mind for the rest of his life.
  • Both articles quoted Port Washington Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Maloney stating, “Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious, so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected.” I believe Dr. Maloney needs to choose her words more carefully because any injury can “unintentionally” become very serious. I have seen kids fall after a very soft hit, but they break their collarbone because they hit the ground in a weird way. I’ve also seen players take a cross-check directly to their helmet and absorb the hit without injury. There is a huge range when it comes to injuries, but the only way to prevent “unintentional” injuries is to keep kids in padded rooms with a helmet on and no interaction with other human beings. Hopefully they won’t “unintentionally” go crazy from the lack of contact with other people.
  • “The Port Washington district said the softer foam balls put students in the best situation to cut down the chance of getting injured.” – The Port Washington district’s stance on soft foam balls misses a key provision. Say a bunch of kids are playing touch football with the soft nerf ball. One kid jumps up to catch the ball, but doesn’t stick the landing. His awkward landing breaks his leg, which lands him in the Emergency Room, and he has to wear a cast for the next four months. The soft nerf ball did not cut down on his change of getting injured, and I contend that kids have a fair chance at breaking a leg whether they play with a regular football or a soft one.

I am an official. My job is keeping players safe, but I always know that players can get injured on legal plays just as they can get injured on illegal plays. The only way to keep players from getting hurt playing the game they love is to not let them play the game.

The originator of lacrosse rules, William George Beers, said it best – “no game is worth a fig if it has not some spice of danger”. I believe kids need to learn how to get hurt. Otherwise they never learn how to deal with pain.

Featured Image Credit – www.betadadblog.com