NCAA toughens sanctions in women’s lacrosse to improve safety

The NCAA, stepping up its efforts to rein in the physical play that has come to characterize high-level women’s lacrosse, is significantly toughening penalties for fouls beginning with the 2024 season.

Under new rules approved in July by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, game officials will card players and force them to sit for one minute of the game for any of a number of infractions, including carrying, holding , illegal selections, cross checks. and pushing. In the past, players received two warnings before referees penalized them for those infractions.

The oversight panel also increased penalties for players who receive red cards (issued by officials for contact they consider particularly egregious) from two to five minutes on the sidelines.

Women’s lacrosse officials called the changes among the most notable the NCAA has made in recent years to improve the safety of the game.

“Our focus in the meetings was to discuss the physical aspect of our game while maintaining the integrity of the game,” Kimberly Wayne, women’s lacrosse coach at Davidson College and chair of the Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee, wrote in an email. the NCAA.

The changes came months after a serious injury suffered by a Yale University attacker during a game in February at Stony Brook University on Long Island. An apparent cross-check left sophomore Taylor Everson with a ruptured kidney and severe internal bleeding, putting her in the hospital for two weeks.

Everson spent months recovering before returning to action in a practice fight in October.

“When he ran onto the field as a starter, the stands erupted in applause and there were many tears,” his mother, Carolyn Everson, said in an email. “He scored pretty quickly and the stands went crazy again and the tears this time were for the happiness of a girl who had returned to doing what she loves.” (Carolyn Everson is a member of the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company, the parent company of ESPN.)

Everson is among a handful of college lacrosse players who have suffered serious injuries in recent years. Officials called the injuries a byproduct of the sport’s evolution and a rules structure that some observers say has not kept pace with that change. Women’s lacrosse was long viewed as a non-contact sport and played with little protective equipment, even as it has become more physical.

“The ability to make contact legally has led to players using their clubs illegally, which then leads to fouls and physical harm,” Wayne said.

Beyond toughening penalties, the oversight panel voted to allow players to wear tight-fitting, padded compression shirts under their jerseys next season. The jerseys should limit serious injuries caused when lacrosse sticks hit players’ abdomens. Previously, players had to apply to the NCAA for a waiver to wear the jerseys.

The revised rules also require defenders to stay further away while protecting players within an 8-meter arc of the goal, and all defenders in that area must protect another player, not just patrol the area.

Meanwhile, as a result of Everson’s injury, Yale University changed its policy and will have an ambulance present at women’s lacrosse games, a precaution usually limited at most universities to collision sports such as hockey and football.

Everson, who chose to wear one of the protective jerseys while he returned to playing condition, said he is optimistic about the changes.

“I think these rules have the potential to be successful, but we are now in a period of trial and error,” he said in an email. “I think focusing on mitigating cross-checking and overly aggressive play is the most important part of these rule changes, which come not only from the rules themselves but also from coaching and officiating.”

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