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Management of Injuries Amongst Female Footballers

24 April 2021  |  By Christian Masson-Moyle

Management of Injuries Amongst Female Footballers

With another highly successful AFLW season run and done and the female winter sport season starting up again, the continued interest and contribution women are making to football in general is changing the football landscape as a whole. One area of particular interest is the current management of injuries amongst female footballers and the types of injuries players are having.

According to the AFLs most recent injury report, current evidence suggests that female footballer injuries are on the rise amongst AFLW players with the number of new injuries per club per season rising to an average of 7 and the average number of games missed per club per season rising to above 24. With the season only running for nine games plus finals, this is a significant amount of injuries and games missed amongst each team which can contribute significantly to team performance and player welfare.

It is well publicised that female footballers average a higher rate of ACL injuries than their male counterparts, with ACL injuries rising in 2020 to 7.5 ACL injuries per 1000 player hours. Concussion rates continue to be an area of concern as well, with an incidence rate of 11.6 per 1000 player hours. Interestingly, soft tissue injuries remain lower amongst AFLW players when compared with male AFL injury rates.

This was evident in the recent 2021 AFLW grand final, with both Lions captain Emma Zielke and Adelaide captain Angela Foley suffering serious and game ending injuries, with Zielke suffering a high hamstring injury and Foley a knee injury from an incident involving jumping and landing awkwardly.

Furthermore, it was reported in the aftermath of the grand final that Adelaide star Erin Philips played a significant part of the season with knee pain in her recently reconstructed knee and Kate Lukin’s best on ground performance was even more outstanding seeing as she played through a painful foot injury now requiring surgery at season's end. Moreover, Adelaide captain Chelsea Randall missed the match entirely due to being ruled out with concussion.

Therefore, with injury rates being so high at the elite level, what can we do about it at the community level to help reduce injuries among sub-elite, amateur and junior players?

From a physiotherapy management perspective, training and “prehabilitating” the body to improve strength, power and balance can help to reduce the incidence of jumping, landing and change of direction injuries that can commonly lead to ACL or other structural injuries of the knee.

High intensity training involving landing, jumping and anticipating contact are key to the prevention of these injuries. Furthermore, increased exposure for both younger and older players to game situations at training is important in training both the body and the mind to become aware of situations within games that could lead to injuries, particularly concussion. For example, training players to avoid leading with the head when tackling or techniques for jumping and landing safely. See our training videos at:
https://www.instagram.com/p/CNY63bTnQLn/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

For further information regarding this type of training, the AFL provides information regarding this type of training:
Prep-to-Play Warm-Up or
A training program to prevent leg injuries in community Australian Football

Otherwise, for a personalised assessment and program for preventing injuries in football, the team at Kooyong Physiotherapy Centre and Spring Physio Gym can put together a comprehensive program to help reduce the incidence of injury amongst both female and male footballers of all ages.

Good luck for all the footballers this season!

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