Philly hosts U.S. Lacrosse Sports Medicine Symposium

This weekend, thousands of coaches, players, fans and officials will converge on Philadelphia for the annual U.S. Lacrosse National Convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The event celebrates one of the fastest-growing sports for men and women in North America—and it all starts Friday morning with the 2013 U.S. Lacrosse Sports Medicine Symposium. The symposium features presentations from top sports medicine professionals on lacrosse-specific issues ranging from head and neck injuries to ACL injury prevention.

“Because of the explosion in popularity the sport has experienced, we need to start looking at the sports medicine-related issues of lacrosse,” said Sports Doc panelist Gene Hong, M.D., team physician for the U.S. National Women’s U19 Lacrosse Team.

Dr. Hong started working with U.S. Lacrosse in the past few years. Until recently, the organization had only one doctor for the program before deciding to expand to include doctors for each of its teams that competed in international play. “Right now, there are eight of us serving as team physicians,” said Dr. Hong. “Among other responsibilities, we travel with the teams to international competitions.”

In 2011, that meant a trip to Germany for Dr. Hong, where the U19 women brought home the gold medal. “The U.S. is definitely a dominant nation in lacrosse,” confirmed Dr. Hong. “Australia and Canada are powerhouses as well—it’s becoming an increasingly international sport. But the U.S. is the leader right now.”

As such, doctors in the states feel a particular responsibility to further the knowledge of lacrosse-specific sports medicine issues. While Dr. Hong admits that knowledge is still in its infancy, he says recent advances have been encouraging in terms of making the game safer for men and women.

“In the past decade, U.S. Lacrosse has mandated eye protection in the women’s game at all levels,” he said. “We’ve been able to demonstrate a significant decrease in eye injuries as a result. That’s just one example of rule changes related to medical issues.”

Dr. Hong will not be presenting at Friday’s symposium, but he is excited to attend and hear from his colleagues on various issues surrounding the sport. Some of the more prevalent topics that will be addressed include:

  • Concussions. Head injuries are the leading topic in sports medicine these days, and lacrosse is no different. “We need to better understand where to go with this issue,” said Dr. Hong. “Should we be looking at boys’ lacrosse helmets, the way football and hockey helmets have been examined? Do we mandate head gear for women’s lacrosse?”
  • ACL Injuries. The higher incidence of ACL injuries in female athletes is well-documented. Yet studies show that in lacrosse, the occurrence of ACL tears is about equal between men and women. “We can speculate—increased contact in the men’s game could be a cause—but we don’t know,” said Dr. Hong.
  • Cardiac Issues. “Again, we’re working to understand the specific issues to lacrosse in this area,” said Dr. Hong. In the past several years, two college players in men’s lacrosse passed away after instances of commodio cortis, a rare yet life-threatening occurrence where a blunt, non-penetrating blow to the chest can induce cardiac arrest. “These issues need to be further delineated and researched,” emphasized Dr. Hong. “You’ve got a hard, rubber ball traveling 60, 70 miles per hour—it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

The sports medicine symposium is the first event at this weekend’s convention. The schedule also includes coaching education clinics, the annual Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft, and a keynote address from Super Bowl champion and former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil.

For more information on this weekend’s U.S. Lacrosse Sports Medicine Symposium, visit the website.

  - By Rob Senior