The “ball” used in lacrosse has undergone monumental changes since the game was first observed being played by Native Americans in 1636 by French Jesuit missionary, Jean de Brebeuf. Today’s balls are fashioned of solid vulcanized rubber. In the past, balls have encompassed rounded rocks, carved wood, and deerskin balls stuffed with hair, feathers and/or grass and sand.
Lacrosse balls must meet weight and size standards to be certified by the NOCSAE, NFHS, NCA, and SEI. Lacrosse balls are constructed of solid rubber and weigh between 5-5.25 ounces, with a circumference measuring 7 ¾ to 8 inches. The natural rubber used in their creation is somewhat unstable so it’s combined with other chemicals during manufacturing.
Manufacturers of professional lacrosse balls utilize vulcanized rubber. The vulcanization process utilizes a chemical procedure in which sulfur is the primary ingredient for catalyzation, combined with pressure. It works equally well on natural and synthetic rubber products. The vulcanization process heats the rubber and chemical formula to temperatures of 280 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The rubber is fed into a mold where the formula hardens as it’s compressed.
The process improves the rubber’s physical properties to make it stronger and more durable. It also aids in preventing the rubber from becoming deformed. Over time, even vulcanized rubber can become deformed when exposed to high levels of stress, but it takes much longer than non-vulcanized rubber. The result of all that scientific research, chemical reactions, and manufacturing process is a lacrosse ball that’s strong, solid and durable.
Ensuring that lacrosse balls meet NOCSAE standards is important for more reasons than simply adhering to regulations – it’s a safety concern. Balls that don’t comply with NOCSAE standards can have bad compression ratios that will make them too hard or stiff and can cause injuries, even when players wear a helmet and full complement of approved safety gear.