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Lacrosse Checking Rules

Table of Contents


Checking is an essential part of the game of lacrosse. Checking is a defensive technique used to dislodge the ball from an opponent's crosse. Players can use their body or their stick to execute a check. For a defenseman, checking is one of the most useful ways to create a caused turnover and dispossess an opposing player who is in control of the ball. All players on the field regardless of their position should understand how to check properly and in a legal fashion.

In this tutorial, we will cover general rules for performing a check and the different types of illegal checks that result in a penalty.

Lacrosse body check

General Rules of Checking

There are a few general rules that apply for executing a proper check. These include:

  • A check cannot occur off-ball, unless both players are within five yards of a loose ball.
  • The defender cannot wind up their stick or make an excessive follow-through. A check should be a short, quick and contained motion.
  • Contact cannot be made below the waist or in the sphere area.
  • A defender cannot use their body to shove an attacker in possession of the ball from the rear, although a trail check and wrap check are considered legal.
  • A check cannot make contact with the opposing player's shaft in between the hands. Only the butt end and crosse are permissible areas to contact. If an attacker is using a one-handed cradle, then the entire area of the shaft below the attacker's hands is fair game.

It is the job of the officiating crew to determine if a check crosses the line from legal contact into a penalty situation. For this reason, enforcement of these checking rules can often be a subjective judgment call.

Illegal Checks

Certain checks are considered illegal because they endanger the safety of the ball carrier. With the exception of a free hand check, all of these types of illegal checks result in a personal foul and nonreleasable penalty situation. Here is a list of illegal checks:

  • Illegal Body Check
  • Cross Check
  • Free Hand Check
  • High Sticking
  • Slashing

Illegal Body Check

An illegal body check in lacrosse is a body check with excessive contact. An illegal body check results in a non-releasable penalty in men's lacrosse. While there are some forms of legal body checks in men's lacrosse, body checking is strictly outlawed in women's lacrosse.

Lacrosse Illegal Body Check

Cross Check

The cross check in lacrosse is when a player strikes another player with their stick and makes contact on the opponent's shaft area between the hands. It also refers to when a defender pushes their opponent with the handle of their stick by deliberately extending their arms. The cross check is legal in the National Lacrosse League, but results in a penalty in Major League Lacrosse and collegiate and professional field lacrosse. Free Hand Check

A free hand check in lacrosse is when the ball handler pushes off of their defender with their free hand, resulting in a technical foul. As opposed to the other checks we have covered in this tutorial, this type of check is performed by the attacker as opposed to the defender. A free hand check results in a 30-second penalty or award of possession to the opposing team.

Lacrosse Cross Check

High Sticking

A high sticking in lacrosse is a penalty violation that occurs when a player swings their stick or makes a check within the sphere of an opposing player. In men's lacrosse, a high sticking results in a major penalty from one to three minutes depending on the official's judgment, and if the contact is deemed to be excessive or overtly intentional the official may choose to eject the player from the game.

Lacrosse High Sticking


Slashing in lacrosse is a type of personal foul caused by a defender swinging the stick at the body or cross of his opponent. The stick does not have to make contact with the other player to count as slashing. Officials can determine whether a check merits a slashing call based on whether the defender follows through with their swing rather than retracting the stick after contact is made. Slashing results in a one to three-minute non-releasable penalty.

Lacrosse Slashing


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