Background: Men's intercollegiate lacrosse is played at a fast pace and with significant force. Glove protection is required. However, the thumb is at risk because of contact with opponents' sticks, the ball, other players, and the ground or artificial surface.
Purpose: To characterize patterns of hand injuries in men's intercollegiate lacrosse and to compare them with those in similar intercollegiate stick-handling sports that require gloves.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance System was utilized to evaluate thumb injuries in intercollegiate stick-handling sports (men's lacrosse, women's lacrosse, and men's ice hockey) during 16 intercollegiate seasons. Injuries were defined as events requiring an athlete to seek medical treatment and miss competition. Data were collected for injuries to the thumb, phalanges, and hand. Descriptive statistics were performed to calculate rates of injury per 1000 athlete-exposures and the relative exposure of the thumb with respect to total hand injuries. chi(2) testing with the Yates correction for continuity was performed to determine differences in proportions of injury among the 3 sports studied.
Results: During 16 intercollegiate seasons, there were 692 thumb, finger, and hand injuries in 3 038 255 athlete-exposures. Total thumb injuries were significantly higher in men's lacrosse, accounting for 59.4% of total hand injuries, when compared with women's lacrosse (42%) and men's ice hockey (35.8%) (P <.001). Thumb fractures and contusions were each also found to be significantly more prevalent (P <.001) when compared with women's lacrosse and men's ice hockey.
Conclusion: Men's intercollegiate lacrosse requires the use of gloves; nonetheless, injury rates of the thumb are significantly elevated in this sport compared with other gloved, stick-handling sports. Recommendations include the development of gloves with improved thumb protection.