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Knee injuries in AFLW

Knee injuries in AFLW

by Mr Jesse Dean 26/08/2019

With AFL Women's finals coming up, injured athletes will be looking towards recovery and rehabilitation in preparation for pre-season. It has been well documented that their most common injuries are knee injuries, more specifically Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears.

Incidence of injury

With little data for female athletes, what data we can compare is season-to-season injury rates. In the inaugural season, there were around 4 ACL injuries per 1000 hours of women’s AFL play time. Unfortunately, this increased to 6.5 ACL tears per 1000 hours in 2018. Comparing this to only 0.7 ACL tears per 1000 hours in the men's competition, it is an area of interest.

Why is the injury rate higher for women?

These injuries are more commonly sustained in non-contact situations, so why is this type of injury so common for this group of athletes?

The mechanism of injury, or the position these tears occur in is knee abduction, lateral trunk motion with the body shifted over one leg and the plantar surface of the foot fixed flat on the playing surface, displaced away from the trunk and low knee flexion.

However, biomechanical differences can predispose females to ACL injuries like a larger Q Angle, which is the angle between the hip joint and the knee joint as seen in this image.

How can we prevent knee injuries?

As a physiotherapist who has sustained an ACL rupture, undergone surgery and completed all the rehabilitation involved with it, I know how important it is to properly prevent these injuries.

An ideal injury prevention program shouldn't solely focus on strength around the knee, it should also focus on strength in the hip, ankle and core, it should be specific to your sport, and should include a proper warm-up before trainings and games.

The AFLW has a dynamic warm-up program based on research of injury prevention for female athletes. It’s called 'Prep to Play' and has three varied intensities. This program includes dynamic stretching, balance tasks, jumping and landing drills, and sports specific change of direction drills.

The more AFLW seasons in the future, the more data will be compiled and comparisons will be able to be made to see if this specific program is effective in reducing ACL injuries.

If you are recovering from an ACL injury and are looking to return to sport, or want to work to prevent these injuries, please contact the clinic and talk to our physiotherapists about the best treatment pathway.