19 July 2022
Whether you’re a veteran fan or new to lacrosse, you’re probably wondering if it hurts to tend the net, play goalie, and block seriously heavy shots. I don’t blame you. It certainly looks like it hurts!
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Goalies are the most heavily padded players in lacrosse. A majority of this padding concentrates on the goalie’s front. where they can expect to block a majority of shots, and some shots can sneak through or overpower the protective gear and cause pain.
But worry not! Protective gear has gotten better and better as more people play lacrosse. Read the rest of the article to learn more about when, why, and how playing goalie in lacrosse hurts and what kind of gear they were to protect themselves!
Goalie Gear Guide
Now that more people are playing lacrosse than ever, companies have invested in developing lighter, stronger, and better protective goalie gear. Because goalies expect to stand in front of—and block—blistering shots that can exceed 70 MPH at upper levels of play, goalies wear more equipment designed to prevent injury and pain than the average player.
Mandatory goalie gear includes a helmet, a neck guard that is secured to the helmet, a mouthguard, a chest protector, goalie gloves, an athletic cup, and cleats. There’s additional optional equipment designed to protect goalies beyond the gear that’s considered mandatory to play the position.
Optional equipment recommended to prevent pain and injury includes shin guards, goaltender pants, knee guards, armored shirts, and a helmet attachment called the LexiShield. Some youth or non-professional leagues may require this additional equipment.
That’s a lot of gear! But it’s necessary to protect yourself in contact sports—especially when playing a position like a lacrosse goalie, where you can expect to be in the thick of the action for most of the game.
Do Shots Still Hurt Despite Protective Gear?
Despite all the equipment goalies wear to protect themselves, no protective gear is perfect. A majority of the protection focuses on where the goalie expects to block shots and come into contact with forwards: the front of their body.
But much like a tank, this leaves the goalie’s back (including their neck), their sides, and the gaps between equipment vulnerable to painful shots or contact with other players.
Even taking a shot directly in the center of the chest protector or helmet can be painful, despite the fact that both pieces of gear are designed to take shots or contact directly. It’s expected that, if you mind the net long enough, you’ll go home many nights with bruises, scrapes, and other injuries inherent to the position.
Common Injuries for Goalies
There are some types of pain and injury that, while far from being unique to the position, are very common with lacrosse goalies. If you’re a goalie, you’re going to get hit in the head with the ball.
Remember that ducking may save you the shock of getting hit in the head, but it might result in a goal too! Since blocking a shot with your head is common, attaching a LexiShield—an extra layer of shielding—to your helmet is a popular option for goalies who want to cut down on concussions.
Shots often connect with the forearms, elbows, and biceps, which can leave welts and bruises, and in rare cases break the skin or fractured bones. Goalies are especially susceptible to these injuries because many goaltenders decide not to wear optional arm protection, and many arms and elbow guards do not adequately protect areas most likely to be hit with the ball.
Goalies also suffer from shots to the shin, which—if a player whips the ball hard enough—can leave the goalie breathless and seriously impact the goalie’s ability to finish practice or the game. All in all, goalies expect to block frequent shots with the front of their body, which—while most do not cause serious injury—can cause quite a bit of pain.
Yes, being a lacrosse goalie can hurt, but that’s certainly not unique to the position. Lacrosse is a contact sport after all, and a certain amount of pain should be expected at any position in sports.
Goalies wear the most protective equipment in the game, and you have lots of additional options to wear more padding than what’s required to play the game.
With that being said, injuries can and do still happen despite the precautions, so be aware of that should you give the position a try (and offer up some extra sympathy for your favorite pro lacrosse goalie when they take a shot off the elbow).