Lacrosse is a high speed, action-packed sport. And with athletes constantly jostling for the ball, physical contact is inevitable. This leads new fans to frequently ask – can you tackle or body check in lacrosse? The answer depends on whether it is men’s or women’s lacrosse.
Men’s Lacrosse Contact Rules
In men’s lacrosse, athletes can engage in controlled physical contact to dislodge the ball or prevent offensive progress. While outright tackling like football is prohibited, some physicality within bounds is legal.
Specifically, the crosse (stick) can be used to poke, lift, or strip check the opponent’s stick in pursuit of a turnover. Stick checking must be directed at the opponent’s stick and hands, not the body.
As well, players can legally make contact and push opponents with their hands and arms when jostling for position. But hands cannot grasp, hold or tackle an opposing player.
Controlled body checking with the shoulders is also permitted. But lowering the head to initiate contact is illegal and dangerous. Players can make contact with the body, but not tackle, grasp, or charge an opponent.
Any check performed with excessive force or violently will be penalized. Safe physicality that does not target the head or neck area is legal in the men’s game.
Women’s Lacrosse Rules – No Contact Allowed
In stark contrast, women’s lacrosse prohibits all forms of stick or body contact under Rule 6. Section 1 clearly states:
“No player’s stick may contact an opponent’s body. No player may physically contact an opponent’s body with her stick or body.”
Any body or stick check constitutes a major foul in the women’s game regardless of intent. There is zero allowance for legal physical contact. Turnovers can only be forced through precise stick checks on the crosse alone and strong positioning to deny passes.
Women’s lacrosse prioritizes finesse and grace by banning all contact and physical play. No tackling, pushing, checking or holding is permitted to gain an advantage.
Youth Lacrosse Contact Rules
To teach the sport safely at introductory levels, youth leagues enforce strict no contact rules. As players grow, controlled stick checking may be phased in around ages 13-15 but with continued bans on any body contact until high school. The age-based gradual introduction teaches proper technique while reducing injury risk.
Penalized Contact and Personal Fouls
While some physical contact is permitted in the men’s game within reason, referees watch closely for personal fouls from overly aggressive hits that compromise safety:
- Slashing: Recklessly hacking or hitting an opponent’s arms with the crosse.
- Cross-checking: Striking an opponent with the stick shaft rather than a poke check.
- Spearing: Leading a check with the helmet or head instead of hands.
- Blindside hit: Contacting an opponent outside their field of vision.
- Boarding: Riding an opponent dangerously into the boards (indoor lacrosse).
- Late hit: Tackling after the play is blown dead.
These personal fouls almost always result in man-down penalties. Repeat or egregious offenses can cause player ejection. Stick and body contact may be allowed in men’s lacrosse but never at the expense of player safety and sportsmanship.
Key Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Rules
While both versions of lacrosse require tremendous athleticism, speed and finesse, contrasting philosophies on physical contact create divergent styles:
- Men’s lacrosse allows controlled checking for a more robust physical game.
- Women’s lacrosse prohibits all contact for an elegant finesse showcase.
- The level of permitted physicality is the core difference between the versions.
Understanding the lacrosse rules for body checking and contact helps fans appreciate the nuances of the men’s and women’s game. Athletes excel by mastering the style of play defined by their version – whether that involves legal physical domination or purely non-contact skill and precision.
Can you tackle in lacrosse? The answer depends on whether you play men’s or women’s lacrosse. While body checking is permitted within strict limits in the men’s game, tackling and physicality are completely prohibited on the women’s side. Appreciating these contrasting rules helps unlock the full spirit and excellence of each version of this fast-paced, exciting sport.