Lacrosse, at any level, is a game of speed and flexibility. That’s why the equipment is lightweight and flexible.
“Football pads are used to deliver a blow, whereas these (pads) are used to protect the player from incidental contact,” said Tim Britton, youth lacrosse coach.
Britton and Scott Nitti coach youth lacrosse. They say safety comes first.
“You’ve got sticks coming down, balls flying through the air. You’ve got to make sure you’re dressed properly for the game,” said Nitti.
Eleven-year-old Jake Jamieson isn’t worried about safety, but his father Ralph is.
“We bought an upgraded helmet, made sure that was top of the line.”
An ex-lacrosse player himself, Ralph says today’s gear has come a long way.
“I think it’s a lot better. I mean we had chintzy thin pads, thin shoulder pads, gloves didn’t wear elbow pads.”
Even the best gear isn’t perfect.
Thursday night, around 6, emergency crews were called to the total sports experience in Gates.
“There was a 12-year-old patient who suffered a serious sports related injury,” said Randy Campbell of Gates Volunteer Ambulance.
A young lacrosse player was hit in the chest with a ball. When EMS crews arrived, an off-duty Rochester firefighter was already performing CPR. EMTs used a defibrillator to restart the boy’s heart.
As he fights for his life, parents and coaches are taking a second look at what’s protecting these players.
“I think the lacrosse community was greatly affected by what happened here last night,” said Britton.
Britton says some players on the JV and Varsity levels are tampering with their gear in the hopes of gaining a greater range of motion, leaving their shoulders and chest unprotected.
“We will be more conscious to alterations to equipment to make sure that’s not the case,” said Britton.
“The heart has got to be protected and they’ve got to make sure these shoulder pads are snug around their waist area, so there’s no room for the ball to enter into that area.”
Ralph says you can’t prevent a freak accident, but you can put a bigger emphasis on safety.
“You want to have fun, you want to all go home at the end of the night, you know, same way you came in that for sure,” Ralph said.
YNN is not releasing the name of the boy who was injured out of respect for the family.
The boy’s coach, Dan Merola, was clearly shaken over the incident. He’s asking the community for prayers to help his player “pull through this.”