Lacrosse Unnecessary Roughness Penalty

Lacrosse Unnecessary Roughness Penalty

While lacrosse is a game that involves many different types of legal contact between players, there are certain actions that are considered too aggressive and are thus prohibited. These include checks that are avoidable, done with excessive force, or carry an intent to harm an opponent. One of these penalties is unnecessary roughness, which is classified as a personal foul.


In lacrosse, unnecessary roughness is a penalty that occurs when a player makes a check that is deemed as avoidable, deliberate, and violent by the referee. In many instances, these checks can appear to be legal, but their avoidability or the presence of excessive violence makes them an unnecessary roughness penalty. Examples of unnecessary roughness penalties include extremely physical body checks to unsuspecting or vulnerable opponents, charging an opponent from over five yards away, or a violent check against the goalie outside of the crease.

While unnecessary roughness may be similar to other penalties, such as unsportsmanlike conduct or an illegal check, its requirements are different. The main criteria surrounding this penalty are that the player committing it intends to harm an opponent and, oftentimes, that the action could have been avoided in general.

The unnecessary roughness penalty is considered a personal foul in most lacrosse leagues and is met with a one to three-minute unreleasable penalty. In extreme cases or for repeat offenders, it can also result in ejection. Youth lacrosse leagues take the punishment for unnecessary roughness to a higher level, instituting a zero-tolerance policy that warrants ejection for offenders of this penalty. The rule is meant to prevent unnecessary injuries and takes needless violence out of lacrosse, which is why it is so heavily emphasized on the youth level. That being said, the call is up to the referee’s discretion to deem whether a check constitutes unnecessary roughness.


Unnecessary roughness penalties generally have uniform consequences across all lacrosse leagues and levels of play, with the exception of youth lacrosse. The penalty is considered a personal foul and results in a one to three-minute unreleasable penalty to be served in the penalty box. Although less common, if the offense commits the penalty, it will result in loss of possession. In circumstances when the penalty is deemed as excessively violent, it may also result in ejection. In USA Youth Lacrosse, there is a zero-tolerance penalty for unnecessary roughness, meaning that being called for this penalty will result in ejection from the game.

Referee Signal

Lacrosse Unnecessary Roughness Referee Signal

When an unnecessary roughness penalty is called on the defense, the referee will signal the penalty by throwing a flag. Play may continue until there is a dead ball or change of possession.  If the penalty is called on the offense, play will be stopped immediately, and the ball will be given to the opposing team. The referee's hand signal for unnecessary roughness is performed by bringing his hand to their hat in a "salute-like" manner. They then assess either a penalty box period or ejection based on the nature and severity of the action.


  • During a faceoff, a player chooses to hit an opponent and knock him off balance rather than take any action to possess the ball.
  • While a player has his back turned, an opponent runs into him at full force and injures them.
  • While there is a loose or dead ball, a player uses their stick to hit another player.
  • A player knows that the opponent has already relinquished possession of the ball and attempts to check or hit them violently.

Similar Penalties to Unnecessary Roughness

  • Cross-Checking
  • Illegal Body Checking
  • Defenseless Player
  • Slashing
  • Tripping
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct


What is unnecessary roughness in lacrosse?

Unnecessary roughness in lacrosse is a penalty that occurs when a player uses their body or stick to perform a check in an avoidable, deliberate, and violent manner, often with the intent to harm an opponent. The act is judged based on its context, how avoidable it is, and the result of the action. It is a personal foul and is typically considered based on violent intent, resulting in ejection for extreme acts and repeat offenders.

What are the consequences of being called for unnecessary roughness in lacrosse?

The severity of the result of the unnecessary roughness penalty varies on how avoidable, violent, and deliberate the act was by the offending player. For minor acts of unnecessary roughness, the penalty is a one to three-minute unreleasable penalty for the offending player and loss of possession if that player was on offense. Major acts of unnecessary roughness warrant ejection for the player committing the penalty.

What is the difference between an illegal body check and unnecessary roughness in lacrosse?

The difference between an illegal body check and an unnecessary roughness penalty is the intent behind the action. An illegal body check is typically considered an accidental action and, therefore, is seen as a technical foul. Unnecessary roughness is generally intentional and avoidable, so it is considered a more severe personal foul; this is the crucial difference in separating unnecessary roughness from an illegal body check.