By Jessica Bank – Physiotherapist

AFLW has a shorter competition than the AFL with only 29 games in each of the first two seasons. So why are AFLW players more likely to sustain a concussion or a knee injury.

Fast facts

  • Five AFLW players have suffered from season ending ACL injuries
  • There were 16 concussions in the 2018 season and 14 in the 2017 season
  • The incidence of concussion in the AFLW was 3.2 injuries per 1000 player hours compared to the AFL incidence of 1.5 injuries per 1000 player hours
  • AFLW players are 9.2 times more likely than men to sustain an ACL injury (normally 2-5 times more likely)
  • 70% of ACL injuries occurred in a non-contact position
  • Wrist/elbow and hand injuries went up from 0 in 2017 to an incidence of 3.23 per 1000 player hours in 2018

Why is this happening?

1. Cross Coding

Many of the AFLW players are coming into the game in their late teens or even late 20’s. The AFWL players also came from various other sports that did not expose them to the 360-degree type game or the movement patterns of the game. Since their previous sports did not expose them to this and they were entering a different type of game at a later age it may contribute to the higher risk of injury.

2. Hormones

Some research suggests that the period post-ovulation coincides with an increased in likelihood of injury. However, this does not apply to all women and there is not enough research to establish this link. So, the jury is not out as to whether hormones directly effect rate of injury in AFLW.

3. Part-time League

The AFLW is a part-time league, meaning that the AFLW players take on additional work outside of the season and the AFL world. As a result of this they have less time to implement injury prevention programs. While those who have become injured during the season have to seek their own rehabilitation outside the AFLW post season.  Therefore the part-time league creates barriers in both prevention of injury & rehabilitation post injury.

What is being done to prevent this?

Prehabilitation is being incorporated into training and the players’ own time. Coaches and staff members of AFLW clubs are also educating players about embarking on a fitness regime or using gym memberships outside of the AFLW.

La Trobe University with the Womens Health in Sport and Exercise is conducting the ACL prevention study and have created Prep to Play. Prep to play is a series of warm ups that aims to address the modifiable factors of injury such as movement patterns, training loads and muscle functions. The prep-to-play warm up series is as follows:

  • Foundations warm up
  • Development warm up
  • Advanced warm up

For videos and more information about prep-to-play please click the link below.

https://coach.afl/prep-play-skills 

How Can I prevent knee injuries & concussions?

  1. Find a gym buddy or start a gym session with your friends outside of the AFLW
  2. Warm up before each training and game implementing the prep-to-play warm up
  3. Include agility training with the footy or a ball when at training or at the gym