The rising popularity of AFLW, has shone a light on the common injuries in women’s footy. Female AFL players may be more susceptible to certain injuries compared to male players. This is due to differences in athletic build, training and tactics, which need to be addressed in order for a safe game (e.g. women on average have smaller hands, therefore AFLW uses a smaller ball to reduce hand injuries).
Knee injuries are a common concern for female AFL players, in particular, injuries to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). In fact, ACL injury is five times more likely to occur in female players than in male players.
And it’s not just AFL. This is also true for female players in other sports like basketball and soccer. Studies report that females have a higher chance of injuring their ACL in competitive sports, because different biomechanics causes higher stress on their knees. For example, when performing crossing and pivoting movements, pelvic angle and increased trunk rotation increases rotational forces at the knee. Women may also experience knee injury from jumping and landing since their knees are less bent.
Numerous factors influence ACL injury risk:
- Technique and experience in sport
- Anatomical and physiological
Strength and biomechanics are often the focus of ACL rehab and ‘prehab’ (preventative training). Learning certain techniques to keep bodies centred over the knee when landing, and training to increase core strength can reduce ACL injuries in females. It is also important to incorporate specific training to build ‘muscle memory’ that helps engage muscles quickly to support the knee when landing or being tackled.
However, expert guidance is crucial to get the most out of training. Australian football is an endurance sport. Overtraining or neglecting endurance can cause muscle fatigue or asymmetry, which can impact on knee stability. As skilled observers of posture and form, physiotherapists can advise on the specific training techniques needed to prevent injury, improve performance and enhance recovery.
It is still early days for women’s footy but the years ahead will add the benefit of research to training. Less funding of AFLW players can reduce access to the gym training hours to prevent ACL injuries, therefore more support is needed in order to make AFL a safer sport for women. Girls are growing up wanting to be the next Tayla Harris or Daisy Pearce. With more girls playing footy, we hope to soon see research that will help further develop training techniques.
At Fairfield Physiotherapy we are closely following the AFLW, injury rates and reports. Prevention is definitely better than cure and we want to help you keep playing and training longer and stronger. For more information about the prevention and treatment of AFL injuries in women, book an appointment online or call Fairfield Physiotherapy at 94897744.