Gabby Charlton - APA Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist & Head Physiotherapist Fremantle Dockers AFLW
Part two of our blog series explores common injuries in AFL. As men’s football has developed into the fast, powerful game of today, the nature of injuries particularly soft tissue pathology, has changed. Interestingly the incidence of hamstring, hip and groin injuries have remained high for many years, highlighting the importance of injury prevention programs across all levels of football.
Common injuries in the male cohort:
Hamstring and other muscle strains
The most prevalent injury in male football continues to be muscle strains, particularly hamstring strains, which for many years has accounted for around 20% of all injuries in elite AFL.
The biggest risk factor for any muscle strain is a previous history. There is now quite conclusive research on a link between weaker muscle strength and higher risk of hamstring injury. More recent research is beginning to show players who return to play continue can develop strength deficits in previously injured muscles, even if they regain muscle strength through the rehabilitation. It highlights the importance maintaining strength and gym program throughout the football season.
As the speed of the game continues to increase, and players are getting faster, stronger and more athletic over the years, tendon injuries are becoming more prevalent in the AFL. These injuries take longer to return from, generally between 8-12 weeks. While muscle strength may not initially be too affected, athletes may struggle to return to explosive movements such as sprinting, changing direction and kicking.
Any soft tissue rehabilitation should include sports specific agility work resembling running patterns of the sport. In AFL this could be things like chasing an opponent, reacting to a ground ball or kicking under pressure.
2. Hip and groin pathology
Hip and groin pathology is the second most prevalent injury in male football, accounting for around 11% of all injuries.
There are a few different sources of hip and groin pain and it is important to correctly diagnose the correct cause. The source of pain may be arising from the adductors, hip flexors, pubis, hip joint or inguinal ligaments. Identifying the correct cause if the first step in creating an individualised exercise program
It is well accepted that hip anatomy can change with athletes who are exposed to high levels of field sports in their youth. These changes have little correlation to developing hip and groin pain, however it can result in decreased range in a sport that requires high amount of hip movement for sprinting, kicking and cutting.
There are significant differences in the anatomy of the male and female pelvis, with the female pelvis sitting wider to allow childbirth. Although it is not yet clear in the research the correlation between anatomical differences and injury, a more hypomobile or ‘stiff’ profile of the male hips may require more mobility work to increase available range at the hips. Muscle imbalances around the hips can also cause functional restrictions to hip range and any asymmetries or weakness around the hips and pelvis should be addressed with targeted strength programs.
Searching for an injury prevention program for a club or athlete? WA SportsMed Physiotherapists can create whole team or individual injury prevention program depending on your requirements.
Unfortunate enough to have one of these injuries? We pride ourselves on designing elite-level programs for athletes of all levels to get your back on the field as quickly and safely as possible.
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