Many lacrosse players continue to use their “lucky” lacrosse stick head for several seasons because they believe they can just replace the mesh when it becomes worn and weathered. The problem is the fact that these players, despite saving money, might be playing with an unsafe stick.
Just because you’ve replaced the mesh doesn’t mean your stick is completely safe for play. There might be cracks or imperfections from wear and tear hidden below the surface. Even product manufacturers concede that lacrosse heads begin to break down after muddy days spent scooping ground balls and whipping wrist shots.
“We know that materials break down over time, and while we’ve made great strides in product and polymers, and we continue to explore new materials and molding processes,” says Dale Kohler, Director of Innovation at Warrior. “The simple fact is that the current materials for all lacrosse heads will exhibit performance declines with usage over time.”
As a player, how exactly do you measure and quantify how much your head has broken down and how it can impact your game? According to Kohler, a good way to determine the durability of your head is by measuring how much it bends back when a force is applied to the head that is equivalent to an 80 mph shot. That deflection effects accuracy and consistency.
When you need a new pair of gloves because they don’t fit or they’re beat up, you don’t think twice about replacing them. “This type of change is easy to see and feel, but there are things that go on with lacrosse heads that aren’t as obvious, and we are studying those things to educate the consumer,” says Kohler.
It’s important to understand the correlations between age, usage, and degree of freshness and how they impact the overall effectiveness of your lacrosse head. “Trying to determine a rule of thumb that is based on the age of the head is very difficult,” says Kohler. “For example, if you take out a head that is two years old, but it’s been sitting in your bedroom or used sparingly and is well taken care of, it should still perform well,” he says. On the flip side, if you have a head for two months and are using it three hours each day, taking face-offs, leaving it in the trunk of a hot car, storing equipment on it, that head might not perform as well as the older head. “It’s not age; its usage and how it’s been taken care of,” he adds.
Ultimately, it’s up to each individual player, but Kohler suggests paying close attention to head performance and how frequently you are making stringing adjustments. “As an athlete, we get used to making adjustments to our game, our shot, our passes, and our stick,” he says.
Players make micro adjustments to their shot as the material performance of a head diminishes to compensate for those changes. These are all practices that should be monitored and considered when you’re trying to determine whether or not a head is still performing at a high level. “While those tweaks and compensations can help, if the underlying issue is that the head has broken down, then those tweaks are really just a temporary band-aid,” says Kohler.
According to Kohler, it’s smart to store heads at room temperature and avoiding extreme heat or cold. Rotating between two sticks can also help elongate the lifecycle of both heads. If you take a look at the highest level of lacrosse, you’ll see that Major League Lacrosse players have at least two backup sticks (men’s and women’s) and sometimes travel with more.“This gets players used to more than one stick in case something happens to the other,” he adds.