Lacrosse, Bio-mechanics, and Newton’s Laws
How Applying Newton’s Physics Theory Can Improve Your Lacrosse Shot
In recent years, the sport of lacrosse has seen explosive growth, outpacing the growth of any other sport for youth. As a result, to succeed in this competitive arena, players need to examine all aspects of the game including the lacrosse stick itself and developing critical skills and game strategy.
We recently spoke with Kiel Matisz of the National Lacrosse League’s Philadelphia Wings and lacrosse coach at Thrive Lacrosse about the importance of the lacrosse stick itself.
Coaching and practice are clearly going to drive a player’s skills and strategy improvements on the field. However, an often neglected area of focus is the scientific principles that can drive high performance lacrosse players. To really examine the impact of science on lacrosse, we need to take a look at the phases of the lacrosse shot and how Newton’s Laws apply to them.
Phases and Bio-mechanics of a Lacrosse Shot
As described by the Sports Journal’s article, Description of Phases and Discrete Events of the Lacrosse Shot, Mercer and Nielson identify the phases of a lacrosse shot:
- The Approach – The lacrosse shot begins when the player starts moving in preparation for taking the shot – essentially the steps taken before actually starting to shoot. The approach ends when the back leg contacts the ground for the final time before taking the shot.
- The Crank Back – This is the actual wind up before taking the lacrosse shot.
- Stick Acceleration – Stick acceleration begins when the elbow of the top arm has reached maximum flexion and then starts extending. This phase ends with ball release. The duration of this phase is very short and dynamic.
- Stick deceleration – Stick deceleration begins once the ball release has occurred and ends when the elbow of the top arm has reached maximum extension.
- Follow-through – The follow-through phase begins when the top arm has reached maximum extension and ends when trunk rotation has been terminated.
- Recovery – The recovery phase begins with the end of trunk rotation and represents the movements the player needs to make to prepare for the next task.
Analyzing these phases and applying Newton’s Laws to them will make a dramatic difference in lacrosse performance.
Newton’s Laws and the Lacrosse Shot
The physics involved with the bio-mechanics of the sport of lacrosse are critical to optimal performance. That’s why it’s important not just to understand the bio-mechanics of lacrosse (the physical phases), but also apply the tried-and-true laws of physics – Newton’s Laws.
Newton’s First Law – Inertia
As you may remember from science class: an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion until an external force acts on it. The force of the lacrosse player’s body moving the stick causes a chain reaction of force upon both the net and ultimately, the ball. The ball will continue its trajectory until acted upon by an external force – either another player or gravity.
Newton’s Second Law – Force = Mass X Acceleration
In scientific terms, since the mass of the ball doesn’t change, the acceleration (or speed) applied to the ball during the throw is the only determining factor in the force of the shot. When applied to lacrosse, this means that a focus on incremental improvements in acceleration is key to improving shot velocity. Stick grip plays a part here as having an optimal grip ensures maximum force.
Newton’s Third Law – Equal and Opposite Reaction
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Essentially, the stretch of the net and movement of the ball within the net counteracts the force applied by the player swinging the stick.
However, the net of a lacrosse stick serves two purposes: throwing (the whip) and catching/holding (the hold). The tighter the net, the more whip is achieved due to the decreased movement of the ball in the net. Inside Lacrosse published a great article about more whip vs. less whip, Stringing Theory: Angle Whip and Time Whip, which is a must-read for every lacrosse player.
Additionally, in order to maximize Newton’s Third Law, when taking a lacrosse shot, it is important to create a “lever arm” which creates force and generates large torque forces to increase the distance of the shot.
Of course, it’s important to not forget that the grip of the stick supports the bio-mechanics of the shot. So, ensure that you have a solid lacrosse grip for your stick.
If you want to dive even deeper in the science behind lacrosse, there are some great articles and videos to explore:
- ESPN2 - The Science of Being a Lacrosse Goalie
- ESPN – Sports Science – The Science Behind a Lacrosse Shot
- Top 10 Mistakes Lacrosse Players Make with their Sticks
- The Physics of Lacrosse
- Physics of a Lacrosse Shot
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