Lacrosse Personal Fouls

There are two main categories of penalties in lacrosse - technical fouls and personal fouls. Personal fouls are a serious violation of the rules caused by illegal physical contact or illegal equipment use. Personal fouls result in a one to three-minute non-releasable penalty time depending on the severity of the foul and the judgment of the official. A non-releasable penalty must be served for the full length of penalty time even after a goal is scored. Personal fouls merit longer time in the penalty box because they put the health and safety of other players or the officiating team at risk.

Types of Personal Fouls

In lacrosse, there are lots of personal fouls. Here is a complete list of personal fouls you should know:

  • Slashing
  • Tripping
  • Spearing
  • Dangerous Check in the Sphere
  • Illegal Body Contact
  • Cross Check
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct


Slashing is when a player swings their stick at an opponent and follows through in a high to low motion. The stick does not have to make contact with the opposing player to count as a personal foul.


Tripping occurs when a player intentionally uses their stick or leg to cause another player to trip and fall.

Lacrosse Tripping


Spearing is a deliberate physical aggression against another player made by leading with the head.

Lacrosse Spearing

Dangerous Check in the Sphere

A dangerous check in the sphere is when a defender’s stick strikes towards the sphere, which is a seven-inch imaginary circle around each player’s head. The stick does not have to make contact with the opposing player’s head to count as a dangerous check.

Lacrosse Dangerous Check to the Head

Illegal Body Contact

An illegal body check is a body check to the back, legs or in the sphere, a reckless shove into the boards or a check to an airborne player.

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. The cross check is legal in the National Lacrosse League, but results in a penalty in men's and women's field lacrosse.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Unsportsmanlike conduct in lacrosse is when a player uses inappropriate language towards the official or another player, commits a taunting foul or threatens another lacrosse player or official. Only the team captain is allowed to speak to the referee, so dissenting language towards an official is closely regulated. Unsportsmanlike conduct results in a one to three-minute non-releasable penalty.

Enforcement of Personal Fouls

The official blows the whistle to stop play as soon as he or she judges a personal foul to have occurred. The offending player immediately leaves the field and sits in the penalty box in front of the scorer’s table and is not permitted to re-enter the game for any reason until the full time of their penalty is served. A teammate may not be substituted for a player in the penalty box. A personal foul can result in an extra-man opportunity for the opposing team unless they already have a player serving penalty time in the penalty box.


Lacrosse Ejection

For severe violations of the rules of lacrosse, a player may be ejected from the game at the official’s discretion. A player who is ejected must depart the field and sideline area immediately and is not allowed to return to play for the rest of the game. An ejection may occur after repeated episodes of aggressive play or unsportsmanlike conduct.