The Main Rules of Lacrosse

The Main Rules of Lacrosse post thumbnail image

Lacrosse is a fast-paced, exciting team sport with a rich history dating back to Native American tribes. The game has evolved significantly and is now played at various levels worldwide. Here is an overview of the key rules and regulations that govern the sport of lacrosse.

Objective of the Game

The primary objective in lacrosse is to score more goals than the opposing team. A goal is scored when the ball is shot into the opponent’s net using a lacrosse stick.

The Playing Field

The playing field is designed to provide a structured environment where the game unfolds.

  • Dimensions: The field is rectangular, measuring 110 yards long and 60 yards wide for men’s lacrosse. For women’s lacrosse, the field dimensions are slightly different, generally 120 yards long and 70 yards wide.
  • Goals: The goals are positioned at each end of the field, measuring 6 feet wide by 6 feet high.
  • Crease: A circular area with a radius of 9 feet surrounding each goal, called the crease, is off-limits to offensive players.

Teams and Equipment

Teams and Equipment of lacrosse game in Canada

Each team and the equipment used play crucial roles in the game.

  • Teams: Each team consists of 10 players in men’s lacrosse (3 attackmen, 3 midfielders, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie) and 12 players in women’s lacrosse (3 attack, 5 midfield, 3 defense, and 1 goalie).
  • Equipment: Players use a lacrosse stick (crosse), helmet, gloves, shoulder pads, arm pads, and a mouthguard. Women’s lacrosse players wear goggles and mouthguards, and goalies wear additional padding.

Gameplay and Rules

Understanding the flow of the game and basic rules is essential for appreciating lacrosse.

  1. Face-off: The game starts with a face-off at the center of the field, where two players fight for control of the ball.
  2. Possession and Passing: Players pass the ball using their sticks, and can run with the ball, but must pass or shoot within a certain timeframe.
  3. Scoring: A goal is scored when the ball passes entirely over the goal line, within the goalposts and under the crossbar.

Key Rules for Men’s Lacrosse

Men’s lacrosse has specific rules that govern player interactions and gameplay.

  • Body Checking: Legal body checks must be made to the front or side of an opponent with possession or within 5 yards of a loose ball.
  • Stick Checking: Players can check an opponent’s stick to dislodge the ball, but slashing (hitting the body or head) is prohibited.
  • Offside: Teams must keep at least three players (excluding the goalie) on their defensive half and four players on their offensive half at all times.
  • Penalties: Infractions can result in time-serving penalties where the offending player spends time in the penalty box, leaving their team shorthanded.

Key Rules for Women’s Lacrosse

Women’s lacrosse emphasizes minimal contact and has unique rules to ensure player safety and game flow.

  • Contact: Women’s lacrosse emphasizes minimal contact. Checking is allowed only if it is a controlled check to the stick.
  • Draw Control: The game starts with a draw, where the ball is placed between two sticks and players try to control the ball.
  • Shooting Space Violation: Defenders must not block the path to the goal if they are not marking an opponent within a stick’s length.
  • Penalties: Major fouls result in free position shots for the offended player, and minor fouls lead to the repositioning of players.

Fouls and Penalties

Fouls and penalties are part of maintaining fair play and safety in lacrosse.

  • Technical Fouls: Minor infractions such as holding, pushing, or offsides typically result in a change of possession.
  • Personal Fouls: More serious infractions such as slashing, cross-checking, or unnecessary roughness result in time penalties, generally one to three minutes, depending on the severity.

Duration of the Game

The duration of a lacrosse game varies by the level of play and gender.

  • Men’s Lacrosse: The game consists of four quarters, each lasting 15 minutes at the collegiate and professional levels. High school games may have 12-minute quarters.
  • Women’s Lacrosse: Games are typically played in two halves, each lasting 30 minutes, with a 10-minute halftime.


In case of a tie at the end of regulation, sudden-death overtime periods are played until one team scores a goal.

Lacrosse is a dynamic and thrilling sport with distinct rules that ensure a balance of physicality and skill. Understanding these rules helps appreciate the strategic depth and fast-paced nature of the game. For further detailed information on the rules, refer to the official regulations provided by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL).

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