There is no doubt that Australian Rules Football is one of the most popular sports in Australia. However, there are several common injuries which are associated with playing AFL, that can occur in all levels of the sport.
Why are injuries so prevalent in the AFL?
Not only is AFL a contact sport, which can include collisions between players, it also requires jumping, tackling, quick changes in direction, sprinting and twisting, all of which can lead to injury. There are three types of injuries which are common in AFL, including injuries to the groin, hamstrings and knees.
There are two main groin injuries which are associated with AFL, including Adductor tendinopathy and Osteitis pubis, both of which cause pain in the groin area. Adductor tendinopathy is a condition which causes strain on the tendon that attaches the abductor muscles to the legs and the pelvis. This strain is caused by a breakdown of the collagen in the tendon. Alternatively, Osteitis pubis occurs when there is inflammation at the site where the two parts of the pelvic bone join.
In AFL there are two major injuries that can occur, including hamstring strains and tears. Hamstrings, which are the muscle group at the back of the thigh, are involved in several movements which are essential in AFL, including running, changing direction and jumping. Poor flexibility and inadequate warmup or muscular imbalances can all cause hamstring strains or tears in AFL.
Some of the most serious injuries that can occur in AFL are knee ligament tears. The anterior cruciate ligament, commonly known as the ACL, is the ligament at the front of the knee, which helps to provide stability and controls forwards and backwards motions. In AFL, movements such as sudden changes in direction or jumping and landing on one foot can cause the knee to be twisted, resulting in a knee cruciate ligament tear. If the ligament is partially or completely torn, an ACL reconstruction or a knee replacement are often helpful ways to restore proper functioning to the knee.
There are a number of ways to help to prevent some of these common injuries when playing AFL:
1. Warm up before playing
Before training or playing a game, participate in warmup activities.
2. Monitor previous injuries
For players that have previous injuries, it is essential to monitor these and consult with a medical professional to ensure their proper management.
3. Work on improving flexibility
To avoid muscle strain, particularly of the hamstrings, work on improving muscular flexibility.
4. Reduce muscle imbalances
Make sure that both muscle groups, for example the hamstrings and quadriceps (front of thighs) are strengthened to prevent an imbalance.
If you are experiencing AFL related injuries, particularly related to a knee ligament tear, Dr Jens Buelow is an Orthopaedic surgeon with extensive experience in sports medicine. Read our latest blog posts for more information about topics related to injury prevention, recovery techniques and injury rehabilitation.