A lacrosse stick or crosse is used to play the sport of lacrosse. Players use the lacrosse stick to handle the ball and to strike or "check" opposing players, causing them to drop the ball. The head of a lacrosse stick is roughly triangular in shape and is strung with loose netting that allows the ball to be caught, carried (known as "cradling"), and thrown or shot.
Traditional lacrosse stick
A traditional lacrosse stick is made out of wood, usually crafted from hickory trees. The lacrosse stick is given its shape through steam bending. Holes are drilled in the top portion of the head and the sidewall (i.e., the sides of the stick head), permitting weaving of nylon string, which is then hardened by dipping the nylon in resin. Leather "runners" are strung from the top of the "head" to the "throat" of the stick. Then nylon string is woven in to create the pocket.
The wooden lacrosse stick dates back to the creation of the sport and is still fashioned by box lacrosse players around the world. Though modern lacrosse sticks made of plastic have become the most popular choice for contemporary lacrosse players, traditional wooden lacrosse sticks are still commonly used by box lacrosse goaltenders, senior and masters players, and by women's field lacrosse players. Wooden sticks are still legal under Canadian Lacrosse Association rules but are subject to the same size regulations as contemporary lacrosse sticks. The only exception to this is the Western Lacrosse Association, which prohibited the use of wooden sticks by non-goaltenders some years ago. The last WLA player to use one was A.J. Smith of the Coquitlam Adanacs, c. 2003–04, the last player who had been grandfathered to use one.
Contemporary lacrosse stick
In 1970, the first patent (US Patent #3,507,495) for a synthetic lacrosse stick was issued to STX. A modern lacrosse stick consists of a plastic molded head attached to a metal shaft. The heads are strung with nylon or leather strings to form a pocket. The dimensions of the stick (length, width, sidewall height, and depth of the pocket) are governed by league rules, such as NCAA rules for collegiate players or FIL rules for international players. Recently, the NCAA updated the college men's rules regarding stick dimensions for the 2010 season in an effort to prevent players from having an unfair advantage due to excessive difficulty in dislodging the ball from technologically advanced, modern sticks. The new dimensions include a minimum 6 inches at the widest point of the head, and wider dimensions for the throat of the head.
In men's lacrosse, the head of the stick may be 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) wide under NCAA rules (or from four to ten inches wide under international (FIL) rules). The head of the goalie's stick is much larger and may be 10 to 12 inches wide under US Lacrosse and NCAA rules (or up to 15 inches wide under FIL rules). The sidewalls of the head (i.e., the side portion of the head) may not be more than two inches tall. In order to be deemed legal for play, the pocket depth must pass the following test: when a lacrosse ball is placed in the pocket, the top edge of the ball must not sit deeper than the lowermost edge of the sidewall.
In women's lacrosse, the stick dimensions are similar except the pocket depth is much shallower. NCAA rules dictate that the head of a woman's stick may be from seven to nine inches wide, and must be strung traditionally, with a pocket formed by a grid of leather strings. Nylon mesh stringing, permitted in men's sticks, is not permitted in women's sticks; however, the goalkeeper's stick head may be up to 12 inches wide and is allowed to be strung with nylon mesh. The legal depth of a women's stick pocket is determined by the following test: the top of the lacrosse ball, when placed in the pocket, must remain above the top edge of the sidewall.
The pocket of the head is where the ball is carried and caught. It consists of interwoven string. Traditional stringing with leather strings interwoven with nylon strings has declined in popularity in favor of synthetic mesh stringing. Mesh is typically made of nylon and comes in a variety of diamond configurations, which can affect the pocket's throwing and retention characteristics.
The typical mesh pocket uses 4 main nylon strings to affix the mesh piece to the head: a topstring, 2 sidewalls, and a bottom string. The topstring is often made of a slightly thicker string, in order to resist the abrasive forces that come from scooping the ball up. The sidewalls are used to affix individual mesh diamonds to the sidewall holes on the sidewall of the head. The sidewalls have the most effect on the pocket's performance, as they dictate the placement of the pocket in the head, the tightness of the channel of the pocket, and even the pocket depth. The bottom string is used to fine-tune the pocket depth, and serves to keep the ball from slipping through the bottom of the pocket.
In addition to the 4 strings used to affix the mesh piece, shooting strings are woven through the diamonds of the mesh in order to help fine-tune the pocket's characteristics. They can either be made of typical nylon string, or a hockey style lace. Shooting strings are often used in straight, U, or V shapes. They serve to increase the pocket's hold on the ball, as well as fine-tune the way the stick throws. They can act to change the tension of various portions of the pocket, helping to create a "ramp" for the ball to roll along as it exits the pocket. As of the 2013 season, the NCAA has passed a rule stating that shooting strings are limited to an area within a 4-inch arc drawn from the top of the plastic of the scoop. This essentially eliminates U- or V-shaped shooting strings, as they almost always cross below the 4-inch line.
Modern handles, more commonly referred to as "shafts," are made of hollow metal. They are usually octagonal, instead of round, in order to provide a better grip. Most are made of aluminum, titanium, scandium, or alloys, but some shafts are still made from other materials, including wood, plastic, or fiberglass. The open end of the hollow shaft must be covered with tape or a plug (commonly referred to as the "butt" or "butt end" of the stick), usually made of rubber. The head of the stick is usually attached to the shaft with a screw to keep it in place.
Stick length is governed by NCAA regulations, which require that men's sticks (including the head) be from 40 to 42 inches long for offensive players, 52 to 72 inches long for defensemen, and 40 to 72 inches long for goalies. Offensive players usually prefer their sticks to be the minimum length (40 inches) in order to give them the advantage of having a shorter stick to protect from defensive checks. Conversely, defensive players usually prefer their sticks to be the maximum length (72 inches) to permit them the greatest range in covering their offensive player.
In 2016, a rules clarification was made by the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee. Questions have arisen regarding the alteration of the shaft circumference. The circumference of the shaft cannot exceed 3 1/2". To be clear, added tape to the shaft must not make the shaft exceed this circumference measurement.
For women, the sticks can be 35.5 to 43.25 inches long. Women's shafts are also smaller in diameter.
- "US Pat #3,507,495 'Lacrosse Stick' Tucker et al".
- Men's Lacrosse Rules
- 2009-10 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Rules
- ILF 2005 Rules
- Women's Rules
- Scalise, Bob (February 4, 2016). "2016 Rules Updates and Clarifications" (PDF). NCAA. NCAA.