Professor Kay Crossley – a physiotherapist and researcher whose areas of expertise include knee injuries – said the first injury report from the AFLW shows that anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are a major concern for female football players.
But she said despite the high risk, the injury rate in the AFLW after the first two season was likely to be inflated because there are key differences between the factors that influence the risk for men and women.
“Most AFLW players have had less exposure to training that strengthens knees than male AFL players and less opportunity to train due to the part-time nature of the employment,” Professor Crossley said.
“In the future, it is expected that AFLW players will be better prepared and have access to pathways and programs that will help them protect their knees and other joints.”
Professor Crossley said injury prevention was critical for AFLW players because they will remain at greater risk even with more training and exposure to football because of hormonal, anatomical, biomechanical and physiological factors.
La Trobe’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre is collaborating with the AFL to develop a new injury risk-reduction program specifically for the AFLW. This will be trialled in 2019 season.
Following this, La Trobe and the AFL will develop a Women’s Australian Football injury risk reduction program to be tested in community football.
“In the meantime, female footballers should take steps to reduce their risk of injury by staying fit and strong and accessing available programs that have been shown to work in soccer and community level male AFL,” Professor Crossley said.
“It is important to remember that while female football players are at greater risk of knee injury compared with men, their overall risk still remains low and women should be encouraged to stay physically active.”
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