Australia rules football is a tough, injury prone sport. At the elite level injury-management is a full time job. At the local level footballers simply don’t have the same time to invest in lengthy injury-management but there are still many measures they can put into place to perform at their best.
Many injuries can be prevented and screening players for injury risk-factors is now common place in sports medicine. Previous injuries, poor rotation of the hip joint, age and poor jumping or landing technique are examples of risk factors for sporting injuries.
Injury is almost a fact of life in Aussie Rules and in recent times there has been a huge shift towards injury prevention. Of course not all injuries can be prevented and that’s usually where rehab is needed.
Some common injuries that can occur playing Australian Rules Football
- Muscle Strains
Muscular injuries are very common in the game because of the sudden acceleration and deceleration involved. Corkies are also very common and are usually down to a blunt force trauma, otherwise known as a bump.
Common areas for soft tissue strains in footy include the calf, hamstring, quads, groin and shoulder.
Tendinopathy is known by many names and involves pain and dysfunction of the tendon, the unit that attaches muscle onto bone. This can be one of the most frustrating and limiting injuries a sportsman or woman can have. They can be slow to recover, they often reoccur and just when training seems to be going well, they can reappear with a vengeance. Commonly affected areas in football are the achilles, the rotator cuff and the knee.
- Joint injuries
Joint injuries in footy range from mild sprains to breaks, dislocations and ligament ruptures. The knee and shoulder are the two most commonly affected joints and Australian rules football has one of the highest rates of rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee in contact team sports. Most ACL injuries in AFL come from non-contact injuries, where the player turned or landed badly. Chris Judd’s knee rupture is a well known example.
- Back injuries
Although usually classified as a joint injury, back pain can have a very complex and persistent nature and rehab often differs to the conventional treatment for an ankle or a shoulder. Back injuries are commonplace in Aussie rules and will range from a simple strain up to more severe and serious injuries.
Preventative measures for Australia Rules Football
- A good warm up
This involves dynamic, movement based drills that gradually get faster and harder and replicate many of the movements that take place in the game.
- Injury screening
Assessment by a qualified sports medicine practitioner can highlight individual risk factors for injury, many of these risk factors can be modified through a training routine.
- Eat a balanced diet and remain hydrated
Diet is a very important part of preventing injuries that are likely to occur through the game. Always make sure that your food contains all the essential nutrients required to support the body. For instance, it is important to make sure that your muscles are strong and you can do this by consuming a balanced diet including proteins and carbohydrates.
It is also important to take calcium to keep your bones healthy. Remember to also take enough water to keep your body hydrated and energised.
- Avoid alcohol before the game
To avoid careless injuries, you need to go to the game with a sober body and mind. This is why it is advisable to avoid alcohol at least two days before the game. You will be sure that you go to the field without any hangover.
Alcohol can cause dehydration and contribute to muscle fatigue and subsequent injury.
- Prepare the playing area
It might sound silly but when playing football, it is important that the playing area is free from any equipment that can cause any injuries to the players. The fence should be far enough from the boundary at least three meters to avoid players from falling on the fence. The goal post should have a good padding to protect the players who are likely to hit the post by accident. Most grounds accommodate this however if you are playing a casual game somewhere, consider your surrounds.
- Custom fitted gear
As a player, it is important that you have the right kind of gear recommended for the game. Some of the accessories needed to protect the player are a mouth guard, thigh protectors, headgear and ankle bracelets. These are meant to protect the ankles, muscles, thighs and make sure that you don’t lose your teeth.
Australia Rules Football posts injury treatment
Injuries in Australia Rules Football are almost inevitable, but injury prevention and management are constantly evolving and sports is becoming far more scientific in its approach to injury.
Here are some common treatments for injuries:
Physios treat injured players, work on rehab and also work on injury prevention. Physios in Aussie rules are usually kept busy. They use massage, manipulation, exercise, acupuncture and taping as to reduce the pain associated with injury.
Physios often lead the way when it comes to diagnosing, treating and rehabbing sports injuries.
Physios also take the lead when it comes to injury prevention and they make key judgements such as whether a player should work on their strength and conditioning, their movement and flexibility or whether they need to improve their technique and movement control.
- Acupuncture & Dry Needling
This is a form of alternative medicine that has been used by the Chinese for centuries and is now all around the world. Small needles places into the skin aim to alleviate pain and tight muscles.
Medication can be a useful part of the recovery process for sports injuries. Anti-inflammatory medication is used orally, topically (on the skin) or though injections. Use of these medications should be in accordance with advice from a qualified practitioner.
This forms a part of many elite footballers’ weekly routine, with the aim of improving recovery from training and competition, relaxing and maintaining a good level of flexibility.
Tailored and pre-made shoe inserts aim to optimise foot and ankle posture. In turn this may help to improve joint alignment and improve the body’s ability to distribute mechanical forces evenly though the legs and trunk.