Lacrosse Illegal Body Check Penalty

lacrosse Illegal Body Check

An illegal body check in lacrosse refers to various types of excessive or improper physical contact between two players, one of which is usually deemed the aggressor. Illegal body checking is a personal foul in most lacrosse leagues and thus carries heavier penalties than technical fouls. As it can cause serious injuries, illegal body checking is often met with severe penalties and possibly expulsion from the game.


Like many sports, such as ice hockey and American football, lacrosse is a very physical, contact-oriented game. However, some forms of physical contact in lacrosse are considered illegal and put players in danger of serious injury. One of these forms of contact is illegal body checking. In lacrosse, an illegal body check can occur in various ways. The first type of illegal body check is a check to an opponent who is not in possession of the ball when the check occurs or who is not within five yards of a loose ball (in US Youth Lacrosse, this requirement is lessened to three yards). These types of checks are illegal because they target players who are not a threat due to their possession of the ball.

Another type of illegal body check is any check where contact is initiated from behind or below the waist. This type of check can be extremely dangerous, as a player who is struck from behind cannot adequately break their fall, and a check below the waist can easily cause injuries to the legs. The third form of illegal body check is any check that occurs above the shoulders, specifically targeting the head or neck. These types of checks can cause very severe injuries even if the players are wearing helmets, such as concussions, brain injuries, or even a broken neck.  

Illegal body checks can also be called if a player initiates contact against another player who has fallen to the ground or has any part of their body besides their feet on the ground. A final form of illegal body checking, known as “spearing,” occurs when an attacking player initiates contact with their head. This can cause injury to both the checking player and the receiving player. It is worth noting that most lacrosse leagues make provisions in their rules for checks that were committed legally but violate the rules as a result of the receiving player turning their body or head at the last moment. If a player sees a check coming and reacts by turning in such a way that the check appears illegal, no foul is usually called.


In lacrosse, illegal body checking is a serious penalty and results in a personal foul for the offender. In most lacrosse leagues such as the NCAA and US Youth Lacrosse, personal fouls earn the offending player a penalty of one, two, or three minutes in the penalty box, depending upon the judgment of the official. As a result of a personal foul, the non-offending team receives the ball. If an illegal body check is determined to be egregious, a player may even be ejected from the game. 

Referee Signal

Lacrosse Illegal Body Check Referee Signal

In both NCAA and US Youth Lacrosse, the signal for illegal body checking is the same. To signal illegal body checking, the referee clenches his fist, bends his elbow so that it is beside his chest, and then rotates his shoulder so that his elbow rises upwards towards his head in a wing-like motion.


  • Player 1 sees Player 2 moving to capture the loose ball as it rolls towards them. While Player 1 is over five yards away from the ball, Player 2 charges into them from the side, throwing them to the ground. Player 2 receives a personal foul for illegal body checking and spends one minute in the penalty box.
  • As Player 2 receives the ball from Player 1 via a pass, Player 3 rushes him from behind and checks him below the waist, causing him to fall. Player 3 receives a personal foul for illegal body checking and is forced to sit out for two minutes.
  • Player 1 goes for a loose ball but slips accidentally and falls onto his hands and knees. While he tries to rise, Player 2 lunges at him and checks him back into the ground, leading with his head. Player 2 is called for an illegal body check and leading with the head, as Player 1 was down during play. Player 2 is also considered to have deliberately checked Player 1 in an intentionally aggressive manner and is thus ejected from the game.

Similar Penalties to Illegal Body Check

  • Personal Foul
  • Slashing
  • Cross-Checking
  • Tripping
  • Unnecessary Roughness
  • Pushing


What is an illegal body check in lacrosse?

An illegal body check in lacrosse occurs whenever a player initiates improper or dangerous contact with another player. There are various types of illegal body checks in lacrosse, including checking a player who does not have possession of the ball, checking below the waist or above the shoulders, checking a player on the ground, and leading with the head. These types of checks can all cause serious injury to a player and are thus severe penalties.  

What are the consequences of being called for an illegal body check in lacrosse?

An illegal body check is a personal foul in lacrosse. Typically, personal fouls are punished with one, two, or three-minute sit-outs in the penalty box and a turnover of possession to the non-offending team. However, more severe punishments can be given out if players are considered to have egregiously or intentionally checked an opponent, in which case ejection can be a possible outcome.

There are certain types of body checking that are legal in lacrosse. For example, in NCAA Lacrosse, any body check toward a player in possession of the ball, or who is closer than five yards away from a loose ball, is legal so long as that body check occurs below the neck and above the waist, from either the front or the side. However, a late body check can be grounds for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, so it is important for players only to check others during active play. In US Youth Lacrosse, a legal body check can only be delivered when a player is standing or running upright and has both hands on their stick. As in NCAA Lacrosse, the check can only occur between the neck and waist, and from the front or side. In accordance with other US Youth Lacrosse rules, body checks can only be done against players who have possession of the ball or are moving within three yards of a loose ball.