Sixty-eight percent of youth lacrosse players participate in private lacrosse skill training, alone or as part of a small group, and 31% play on more than one lacrosse team in a single season.

Those are among the findings in a recent US Lacrosse funded research study to better understand youth lacrosse participation trends and playing time.

By some estimates, overuse injuries represent 50% of the sports-related injuries among youth. This includes both overtraining through excessive in-season participation, as well as overtraining due to a lack of respite from a given sport during the calendar year.

Study results indicated that most youth athletes took some time away from lacrosse, but the number of athletes who took less than two months away (the recommended minimum) increased with age for both boys and girls.

The spring season saw the highest participation rates (91%) followed by the summer (55%), fall (43%) and winter (38%).

Other key findings from the study include:

  • 70% of respondents indicated that their youth player spends more time playing lacrosse than any other sport.
  • 67% of youth lacrosse players played on club or travel teams, with the rate increasing with age.
  • 58% played on recreational teams.
  • 50% participate in two or more weekend tournaments in addition to regular season games and practices.

The majority of youth (82%) are also playing another sport when not engaged in lacrosse. The most frequently played other sports for boys lacrosse players were football (38%) and soccer (31%). The most frequently played other sports for girls lacrosse players were soccer (43%) and field hockey (20%).

The youth lacrosse participation data was collected through the use of an online survey targeted at the parents of youth lacrosse players (age 15 and below). The survey asked about the youth player’s lacrosse experience within the past 12 months, with specific questions regarding sport specialization, sport workload (training volume and intensity), and sport scheduling (frequency of practices and games).

Over 1,600 parents of youth lacrosse players, both boys and girls, completed the survey and represented 47 states. The average age a child began playing lacrosse was 8.5 years.

“The results show that early specialization may not be major issue among most youth lacrosse players since they are playing many sports,” said Dr. Bruce Griffin, director of health and sport safety at US Lacrosse. “But the data also indicates that a large number of athletes aren’t taking even a month off from sports to reduce the risk of overuse injuries.”

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a position statement recommending that youth athletes avoid specializing in one sport before they reach puberty and that children should be encouraged to try a variety of sports. The AAP also recommends that participation in a particular sport should be limited to a maximum of 5 days per week with at least one day off per week from any organized physical activity.

"The ultimate goal of youth participation in sports should be to promote lifelong physical activity, recreation, and skills of healthy competition that can be used in all facets of future endeavors," said Dr. Joel Brenner, a member of the AAP’s Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

In a report issued in 2014, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) released a position statement discouraging early sport specialization and intensive training among young athletes due to growing research evidence that associated these activities with overuse injuries and burnout.

To reduce the risk of overuse injuries, it is recommended that young athletes take a minimum of 2 to 3 months off per year from a particular sport. Additionally, young athletes should only participate in one team of the same sport per season.

More information about player development and US Lacrosse resources are available online at uslacrosse.org/adm.