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Lacrosse Rules & Penalty Calls

By Kurt Johnson

Lacrosse is a contact game played by 10 players: a goalie, three defenders, three midfielders and three attackers. Lacrosse is usually played on a football field or similar surface and players use a crosse, a long stick with a net attached at the end, to carry and pass the ball.

There are personal fouls and technical fouls in lacrosse. A personal foul comes with one to three minutes of penalty time for the offending player, while a technical foul leads to a 30-second penalty or a change of possession.

Holding and Interference

Body checking is permitted in lacrosse only if the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball. Any contact from the back or in the legs or head is a penalty. Holding is called when a player stops the movement of an opponent or an opponent's stick and interference is similar in that it is a call made when a player interferes with another player's ability to move around the field. Body checking is a personal foul.

Offsides

Each team must keep at least four of its 10 players, including the goalie, in the defensive half. Three offensive players must always remain in the opposite half of the field, while three players are free to move up and down the field as play requires. Offside is called when a team has the wrong number of players on either side of the midfield line. Offside is a technical foul.

Screening

Screening of players is not allowed in lacrosse. A player who makes contact with an opponent to keep that opponent from guarding another player is guilty of illegal screening. Screening is a technical foul.

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Stalling

Lacrosse is a game of constant motion, and stalling is a penalty. When a team intentionally holds the ball without effort to advance it, usually for the purpose of running the clock out, the referee will penalize it for stalling and award possession to the opposing team.

When the goalkeeper gets the ball, he has four seconds to carry or pass the ball out of the goal crease (the area around the goal). Once a team takes over the ball in its defensive area--which extends 20 yards out from the goal--it has 20 seconds to move the ball past midfield, and once it crosses the center line it must move into the attacking area (20 yards out from the goal) in front of its opponents goal within 10 seconds. Stalling is a technical foul.

Illegal Crosse

There are specific rules regarding the size of the player's crosse. The crosse is 40 to 42 inches long for attackers and midfielders and 52 to 72 inches for defenders. The head of the crosse has to be between 6 1/2 and 10 inches wide except for the crosses that the goalie uses, which is 10 to 12 inches wide. There is also a limit to the depth of the pocket where the ball is carried.

A crosse that has been altered and does not meet these specifications will be taken out of play. The use of an illegal crosse is a personal foul.

Warding Off

When in possession of the ball, with an opposing player attempting to check him using his stick, an offensive player is not allowed to use his free hand to push or hold the defender away. To do so is a penalty called warding off; this is a technical foul.

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