Australian Rules Football or AFL is an 18 per side ball sport played over four quarters of around 30 minutes each. Being a physical team sport, AFL requires numerous physical attributes. These include: speed, agility, muscular strength, muscular endurance and aerobic endurance – just to name a few.
Common Injuries in AFL players
Given that Australian Rules Football requires such a magnitude of physical attributes and is also a contact sport, footballers usually suffer from a wide variety of injuries. Traumatic injuries such as sprained ankles, torn ligaments and meniscus in the knees, hamstring and quadriceps tears, AC joint injuries and dislocated shoulders usually top the list.
During an AFL match, a player’s body will be subjected to a considerable amount of torsional force across many joint lines including knees, ankles, hips and shoulders. These excessive amounts of force comprise the stability of each joint and the body’s integrity to withstand injury. Over time, this creates laxity and instability within the joint, thus making them more prone to severe injury in addition to any previous history of injury to this joint or other areas of the body.
The most commonly seen injuries are anterior cruciate ligament tears of the knee. When a player is forced to hyperflex or hyperextend their knee past the normal anatomical limits, due to a tackle or a player landing awkwardly, this results in a force that compromises the structural integrity of this ligament causing it to stress and then tear. A tear can be graded from I to IV (minor to a complete rupture), which can mean that a player might miss from between 1-2 weeks up to a player requiring a knee reconstruction (reco), which would invariably rule the player out for a whole season. In fact, they might find that their knee may never be the same again.
Once a player damages a tissue once, then that tissue, especially if it is not rehabilitated correctly with treatment and rehab, is much more likely to re-injured upon returning to activity. This is why we continue to see the same players damage the same area of their bodies multiple times in their AFL careers.