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Basic Lacrosse Rules

By Heidi Cardenas

Lacrosse is a team sport with positions similar to soccer: offense, defense, midfield and goalie. The ball only can be handled/touched with the netted stick, known as the crosse. It's a very old game, dating to before the 1600s. It originated with Native Americans, was perpetuated by French Canadian pioneers and is still played today. There are men's, women's and box lacrosse. It is played at the youth, high school, college, pro and international levels by "stickheads" all over the world.

Length of Games

Lacrosse games are four quarters, with length of the quarters increasing from 8 to 15 minutes as the levels go up from youth to high school to college to pro to international. Teams trade ends of the field at the end of each quarter.

Playing Field

The lacrosse field is a little shorter and wider than a football field, but many youth and high school lacrosse games are played on football fields. Goals are 6 feet by 6 feet within a 9-foot circular area called the crease, set 15 yards from the end line.

Special Rules

When the ball goes out of bounds, the team closest to where the ball goes out of bounds gets possession. The crosse is an extension of the player and is used to reach out closest to the out of bounds area to gain possession. After a score, the two teams face off, with midfielders fighting for the ball and the offense and defense staying behind restraining lines. Lacrosse has several time restrictions that keep play moving. Teams have 20 seconds to cross midfield while passing the ball from defense to offense and 10 seconds to move the ball from midfield into the attack area--or they lose possession. Goalies have 4 seconds to pass saved balls out of the crease or the ball goes back to the other team.

The Check

There are two types of checking in lacrosse: stick checks and body checks. Stick checking is trying to knock the ball from an opponent's stick and must be a forward tapping or whacking motion, not a forceful swing like a baseball bat or a violent up and down chop like an axe. Body checking may only be done against the ball carrier or a player very close to the ball in play, and is basically a shoulder block--not a tackle or a trip. Checking may not be done from behind, and is only allowed above the waist and below the neck. Cross checking is allowed, if the stick is held horizontally in front by the player with both hands close together and used to push the opponent in check. It is an illegal cross check if the stick is held with the hands far apart as the opponent is contacted.


Lacrosse has technical fouls and personal fouls. Technical fouls result in a lost ball for offside, crease violations and pushing from behind. Personal fouls receive a 1- to 3-minute penalty for tripping, illegal cross checking and checking from behind.

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