Public Health seminar

Public Health seminar

14 Apr 2011

Dr Mandy Ruddock-Hudson from the La Trobe University School of Public Health has examined the psycho-social and psychological impacts of injuries in AFL players. Until this study, no research had examined these implications associated with injury with a sample of professional footballers.

FootyThe AFL is one of the highest profiled sports in Australia and also produces one of the highest rates of injury within the sporting domain. Injury can have a considerable psychological impact on athletes and an athlete's mental state can impact their rehabilitation and recovery from injury, Dr Ruddock-Hudson says.

‘Previous research has shown that between 5-20 per cent of injured athletes experience clinical levels of depression. And what was most surprising was that no research had actually been undertaken with AFL samples,’ she says.

What we found was that although some players were classified as physically ready to return to the competition, they had not psychologically recovered. Anxiety levels were most prominent as players had concerns over re-injury.

The study aimed to focus on other avenues that need to be examined when a player is injured. Further than focussing on the physical state, the athletes well-being must also be addressed to ensure full rehabilitation.

Dr Ruddock-Hudson says communication has been a valuable part of the research. ‘During their injury periods, players can become isolated from their team-mates, coaches, and the environment that they know and love.’

‘This was the first opportunity that players had to discuss their situation, and as research has shown, whether it be mental illness or another health condition, talking openly about how one feels is a positive way to rehabilitate,’ she says.

Social support was also a huge influence on an AFL player’s psychological well-being. Support from immediate family, partners, siblings or the football club were beneficial in opening the lines of communication. The study also found that a player’s ranking in the club varied with relation to  support received. An athlete ranked at one or two may have been offered more support than a player ranked at 40 or 41, a system football clubs are trying to balance out.

Dr Ruddock-Hudson will present these findings on Wednesday 20 April through the Health Sciences seminar program. She will highlight the implications that can be drawn from the findings and applied to sport practitioners, medical personnel, coaching staff and AFL players in order to facilitate rehabilitation and recovery from injury.

‘AFL players are highly profiled athletes and scrutinized by the media. Playing football is something that they love as well as their employment and if their ability to play is taken away from them, as health professionals, we need to insure that they can return to a quality of life as well,’ she says.


Media Opportunity

What: La Trobe University School of Public Health Seminar Program, Psychosocial reactions to injury - Experiences of professional AFL footballers, presented by Dr Mandy Ruddock-Hudson

Venue: La Trobe University’s Melbourne Campus, Bundoora
Room 115 in Health Sciences 1 (HS1)
When: Wednesday 20 April 1-2pm

Dr Mandy Ruddock-Hudson is available for interview, please contact:



Meghan Lodwick
La Trobe University Communications Officer
T: 03 9479 5353 E:




La Trobe Media Release RSS