There are increasing numbers of female athletes moving into AFL which is great!! BUT, the number of ACL injuries I’m seeing coming through the door in the last couple of years is SCARY!
Here are some of the factors that are contributing to ACL injuries in AFLW:
NEW SPORT – AFLW is a relatively new sport meaning that most women have not grown up playing it all their lives like men have – moving from netball or dancing to Australian football is a HUGE change in the body that requires training and adaptation. Additionally to this, there needs to be a new appreciation and understanding of the 360-degree element of AFL that means a fast change of direction, as well as impact, can occur at any time.
FUNDING – Unfortunately most amateur clubs do not have the funding for team physios and S&C coaches so there is often a big lack in prevention programs, pre-season screenings, warm up and cool down, education, and load management throughout the season
What are the Female athlete-specific factors?
Hormones – Every month our bodies are releasing hormones – Estradiol, Relaxin and Progesterone have all been shown to INCREASE laxity of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) with the highest rate of laxity being between Days 10-14 of the menstrual cycle (Park et al. 2009).
Biomechanics – Women naturally have a wider pelvis than men which increases the ‘Q-angle’ between the hip and the knee. This means that without appropriate single leg control, we may be more prone to the knee dropping in towards the body, placing more stress on the ACL
What can you do about this?
Talk to a Physio – Get an individualised screening and find out what areas of your body you need to work on for ACL injury prevention.
Get strong! Just rocking up to trainings/games isn’t enough to get you through an AFLW season injury free – start a strength program at the gym with the aim to build up your strength in the offseason and maintain during the season. Also include practicing good change of direction, jumping and landing technique.
Recovery – Eat right, get enough sleep, look after your body physically and mentally, warm up and cool down and if you have an ACL injury, get it rehabbed properly!