Post Date: September 17, 2020
Lacrosse balls can be made out of different formulas but in order to be used in lacrosse games, they must be certified lacrosse balls. See Nate Prigmore’s experience that led to a ball mandate.
Brands and manufacturers must submit an extensive packet of lacrosse ball production information, testing fees, product testing samples, product labels, quality program manuals, etc to SEI. SEI reviews this information, performs a sample size test on each ball model and color, and administers a facility audit annually. Once the brand has passed SEI’s review, the ball is listed on the SEI website.
NOCSAE lays out the standards for certification with SEI being the accredited certifying body. NOCSAE’s standard specification establishes performance requirements in the weight, compression deflection (C-D) load, circumference, and coefficient of restitution (COR) for new lacrosse balls as supplied by manufacturers. NOCSAE’s ND049-19 standard as of March 2020 can be found here.
Certification of lacrosse balls is important as this is a safety issue. A lacrosse ball in spec at 150 grams, traveling at 90 mph, and hitting a lacrosse helmet can cause upwards of 1,000 Severity Index to the skull and brain causing irreparable damage. The hit can crush a mandible joint in the jaw. It has been shown that a lacrosse ball that hardens above the NOCSAE specified hardness level of 110-150 CD can cause even more damage. A lacrosse ball with a hardness level out of spec at 215 CD can create a >1,300 Severity Index.
An updated list of lacrosse ball manufacturers, brands & model numbers that are certified by NOCSAE® SEI are listed on the SEI website. Lacrosse balls may have the NOCSAE® SEI logo embossed showing that they’re certified, however if brands don’t keep up with the annual auditing process with SEI or their balls are shown to be out of spec, then they may be recalled. It is important when purchasing gameday lacrosse balls that you make sure the balls are listed on the SEI website.
It is important that lacrosse balls are tested to be in specification – not only at time of manufacture but as long as they are in play: 2 weeks to 2 years or longer. New formulas have been created in the USA to keep balls greaseless and in spec longer.
It has been found that rubber lacrosse balls will harden over time as their additives in the formula leach out. Rubber lacrosse balls are solid and strong but when these oils and fillers leach out of the rubber balls, they become greasers and are slippery. As with car tires, with continuous exposure to the elements, the rubber degrades.
You can visually identify the ball as a “greaser” or even notice how hard the ball gets. It is very important to only purchase lacrosse balls that are certified by NOCSAE® SEI and are listed on the SEI website.
It is important to learn which lacrosse balls rapidly go out of spec during use. If you have a lacrosse ball that is slick/greased, chances are that it is out of spec and above the safe CD hardness level. If your ball feels like a cue ball then chances are it’s out of spec.
As a coach, league organizer, superintendent, parent, etc… it is important to use lacrosse balls that stay in spec and don’t grease. This is a liability issue in addition to a safety concern.