Additional Thumb Protection for Lacrosse Goalies
One summer I was working a lacrosse camp for youth at Cal. Towards the end of the day I threw on the pads and jumped into goal so the kids could scrimmage with 2 goalies.
As we’re playing, a 14 year old (who was bigger than me) caught a pass right on the crease. He turned and fired. No finesse to this move, it was your classic crease crank and instead of picking a corner and shooting with touch his strategy was to try to shoot the rock through me.
I went up to make the save and felt the ball hit my thumb on my top hand. I instantly heard a crunch sound followed by an intense pain.
I avoided a break that day (just a horrible sprain) but many lacrosse goalies out there haven’t been as lucky.
Most goalies I’ve spoken with on the podcast have had some sort of thumb injury in their career. That’s because regardless of whether your top hand is setup in position 1, 2, or 3 in the graphic below, our thumb is in a very vulnerable position in our lacrosse goalie stance.
View this post on Instagram
Ohio St. and then Johns Hopkins goalie Josh Kirson broke both of his thumbs on different shots.
On a regular basis in the LGR Facebook group parents unfortunately post pics like this along with a story of how their youth is out for a month or so.
So what can a lacrosse goalie do for additional thumb protection?
Best Gloves for Lacrosse Goalie Thumb Protection
Before getting to additional thumb protection, let’s talk briefly about gloves.
For anyone who played lacrosse in the early 2000’s and before, this image will seem all too familiar:
Although familiar, I’m not referring to the OG Eclipse head. Nor the 17 diamond open side wall string job.
I’m referring to that beefed up thumb.
Before lacrosse goalie gloves came onto the market, lacrosse goalies were responsible for MacGyvering their own thumb protection with leftovers of other gloves and tape.
Eventually lacrosse companies caught on to what most goalies were doing for additional thumb protection and they started to create a line of “lacrosse goalie gloves” which was essentially the same player gloves with some built in thumb protection.
I know some goalies still use player gloves and to me those are the crazy ones. I’d always recommend using goalie gloves for the additional protection they do provide.
Different lacrosse companies have different methods and technologies to enhance the thumb for safety. That said, the state of lacrosse goalie thumb protection technology needs to improve drastically.
In that Facebook group I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen goalies injure their thumbs in every single goalie glove on the market. One goalie swears by a particular glove and the next goalie broke their thumb using the same. A lot of has to do with chance.
I’m not going to review every lacrosse goalie glove in this post but I think the gloves offering the best thumb protection right now is the Maverik line.
The Maverik M5 and Maverik Max goalie gloves both feature the same TORQUE LOC 2 thumb design for advanced protection from hyperextension and high velocity impacts. In my opinion this is the best thumb protection out there right now.
But like I said, I know goalies who’ve injured their thumb in these gloves too so they’re not invincible.
Do Not Use: Epoch Goalie Gloves
If you’re interested in thumb protection, the only gloves that are a strong DO NOT RECOMMEND from me are the Epoch goalie gloves.
The linked post above is to a review of their older model, the Epoch Integra, however even in the newer model they’ve done nothing to enhance the thumb protection.
It’s essentially their player gloves with plastic cap sewn over the thumb. It does offer better mobility but does so by sacrificing protection.
Add Thumb Protection Via Instamorph
Here’s a little trick I learned from the Goaliesmith brothers for additional lacrosse goalie thumb protection.
The product is called Instamorph.
It’s a lightweight polyester thermoplastic which acts like clay when warm, but when it cools, it’s a strong plastic.
So you heat it up and then mold it around your glove and when it cools, viola, you have a reinforced thumb.
It will add some extra weight to the glove but such is the price to pay for additional protection.
Splint for Thumb Reinforcement
Another option to enhance your thumb protection is to wear a splint on the thumb underneath your goalie glove.
Evan Ludin is a hand and occupational therapist based in Long Island, NY. He creates customized splints for lacrosse goalies (and other players):
It’s impossible to guarantee no injuries but Evan told me he has yet to hear of any goalie suffering an injury while using one of his custom splints.
After you have your splint, it fits into your glove:
The splint is customized to the goalie’s thumb so you would need to visit Evan in Long Island for one of his pieces. However, other hand therapists around the world should be able to create something similar if you give them pictures and requirements.
If you can’t get a custom splint made, the other option is to use a generic type of splint like the EvoShield.
These are the same idea but obviously won’t be as comfortable as a custom splint.
One Lax Goalie Rat follower, Rob Raphael suggested using splinting material to create your own splint to wear under the gloves.
With all of these options we’re sacrificing a little mobility for protection but such is the price of avoiding injury.
Hold The Stick Different
Remember Josh Kirson, Hopkins goalie this year who broke both of his thumbs.
He told me he injured his top hand thumb so many times that he had to adjust the way he plays.
Instead of a normal top hand grip he actually puts his thumb behind the stick head. You can imagine his hand making the thumbs sign and the thumb sits behind the plastic of the STX Eclipse 2 throat.
This technique would definitely require some getting used to. Since the wrist rotation, especially on those low off stick shots, is trickier with the thumb behind the plastic, Josh tends to attack off stick shots “over the top” rather than going “underneath”.
Additional Hand Protection
So far this post has been mostly focused on thumb protection as that is the most vulnerable part of the goalie’s hand.
The only hand injury I suffered was to the thumb but with the increase in velocity of shots these days some additional protection to other parts of the hand might be warranted.
You can also reinforce the back of your hand too with something like this from EvoShield:
The percentage of lacrosse goalies who have suffered a thumb injury is absurdly high. We know we’re going to get hit there and yet injuries happen all the time.
If you’re one of those goalies who is sick of injuring the thumb or just looking for the best prevention, this post gives you a few options.
The first is get a pair of good goalie gloves. The thumb protection technology in these gloves needs to improve. Period.
I’ve heard stories of goalies injuring their thumb in every type of glove. That said, my recommendation now is the Maverik line and I highly recommend avoiding the Epoch gloves which have horrible thumb protection.
After that you can add after market protection like instamorph or thumb splint, custom made or off the shield like EvoShield.
Finally if none of that works, consider “hiding” your top thumb behind the neck of the goalie head. It will take some getting used to, however there’s no debate that it will protect your thumb better than having it exposed.
View this post on Instagram