Lacrosse has evolved from the training of the warriors of Native American tribes to the game that is played today in stadiums and on high school fields; it has become one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States. Since 1999, participation by players ages 15 and under has increased from about 30,000 to more than 220,000 in 2006, and high schools reported 59,993 male and 48,086 female students playing lacrosse in 2005. The game was named for the sticks the players used, which to the early French explorers looked like a bishop’s crosier.
Depending on geographic area, there were three variations of the Native American game and the equipment used. The southeastern tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Yuchi) played a double-stick version of the game. They used two 2 ½-foot-long sticks to retrieve a small deerskin ball; the ball was cupped between the sticks. The Great Lakes tribes played with a 3-foot stick, which ended in a round closed pocket about 3 or 4 inches in diameter usually made of wood that was charred and scraped to shape. The Iroquois and New England tribes used the precursor to the lacrosse sticks used today. These were more than 3 feet long, and the shaft ended in a crook with a large triangular surface of webbing extending as much as two-thirds the length of the stick. The early sticks were made of hickory wood.
In 1964, the first plastic head was invented; it was a lightweight, symmetrical, perfectly balanced triangular urethane plastic head with a traditional leather thong and synthetic cord pocket, attached to a wooden pole. The introduction of the first plastic stick made it possible to standardize all sticks so that they could be of the same lengths, widths, weight, and balance. With the improvements in plastics, manufacturers discovered how to make the sticks almost unbreakable.
Today’s players use sticks with heads made of plastic; shafts made of aluminum, graphite, titanium, Kevlar®, or alloys of aluminum, magnesium, scandium, and zinc; pockets made of nylon mesh; and hard rubber balls. The goal posts are made of steel, PVC, and aluminum, instead of rocks and trees, and the nets are made of nylon. Even the clothing and safety accessories players wear have benefited from innovations of the 20th and 21st centuries. Gloves and pads for the chest, arms, and legs all have plastic and some have gel technology to protect the players.
Although magnesium is produced in the United States, most of the magnesium consumed is imported, mainly from Canada. The world’s leading producer of primary magnesium is China.
In the United States, the Red Dog Mine in Alaska accounted for about 80% of domestic mine production in 2006. Most of the zinc consumed in the United States is imported. China is the world’s leading producer of zinc.
Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the U.S. Geological Survey. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the U.S. Geological Survey should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.