Does lacrosse cause brain damage? It’s too early to say for certain, but there is reason for worry and an urgent need for more study.

In lacrosse, as in football, there has been an increasing awareness over the past 20 years that concussions are extremely dangerous.

In 2010, a study of high-school football players conducted by Purdue University researchers showed for the first time that hits suffered in competition or on the practice field that did not result in concussions still cause changes to a player’s brain function over time. That function seems to return after a period of rest, though no one knows what happens to these brains 30 or 40 years later.

Repeated subconcussive hits in football definitely affect the brain. And now there is research showing that the same is true in lacrosse.

Last spring researchers at the New York Institute of Technology tracked 10 players on the college’s men’s lacrosse team throughout its 18-game season, using mouthpieces in which sensors recorded the strength and frequency of impacts the players experienced during practice. The purpose of the study was to determine not just how often and how hard they got hit, but also whether the repeated, less-than-concussive blows had any effect on their memories and reaction times.

The sensors showed that the players often took hard hits. One had 525 impacts of at least 25 G-forces, the equivalent of a car crash at 20 mph, and 17 hits of at least 80 G-forces, the equivalent of a car crash at 40 mph. Examinations showed a definite though subtle loss of both memories and reaction times, even though the players said they felt fine and believed they were performing as well as they had earlier.

And even if they didn’t feel 100 percent, the culture of competition is such that the athletes admitted they won’t always let on to a coach or parent about repeated hits that have them feeling less than 100 percent.

Lacrosse is growing across the country. Youth and high school participation tripled from 2001 to 2016. Many kids play year-round, rather than moving from sport to sport, and play on multiple teams at once: club, scholastic and travel.

We need more information on what lacrosse is doing to kids’ brains. The same with football and soccer. Part of the issue is the need for parents and children to make smart, informed decisions about sports. And part of the issue is the need for school districts to make smart decisions about organizing and conducting such sports.

Editorial by Newsday

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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