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Injury Prevalence in the AFL

For the last 26 years the Australian Football League has conducted a yearly injury surveillance survey to identify common, severe and increasing incidences of injury, with the outcomes helping to direct research and funding into prevention strategies.

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For the last 26 years the Australian Football League has conducted a yearly injury surveillance survey to identify common, severe and increasing incidences of injury, with the outcomes helping to direct research and funding into prevention strategies. Since the first Injury Survey in 1992, and despite the impressive investment into prevention strategies, hamstring strains have remained the most prevalent injury type for AFL players and (according to 2016 research) the largest injury contributor to games missed per year. Despite its prevalence, over the past few years there has been little change in the rate of hamstring strains with the incidence (5.2 new injuries per club), prevalence (19.7 matches missed per club) and recurrence (15%) remaining relatively stable.

So what more can be done??

At Kitman Labs we wanted to increase our understanding of hamstring strains and their prevalence within the AFL. As such we dove into our data to see if we could find any correlations on hamstring injuries, particularly if there were any relationships between training variables and the incidence of hamstring injuries?

  • 70% Decrease Injury Risk
  • 450 < Total Workload > 550
    • Injury risk decreases by 70% when Total Workload over the last 7 days lies between 450 and 550 for an individual athlete.

Our data showed numerous variables had relationships with hamstring injury risk in AFL, including Fatigue, Groin Squeeze, Muscle Soreness, Pain Squeeze, Sleep Quality and Total Game & Training Workload.

Here is an example of two such findings;

  • <320 mmHg Groin Squeeze
  • 2x Increase in Injury Risk
    • Injury risk increases when average Groin Squeeze over the last 7 days is less than 320 mmHg for an individual athlete.

So how do we use this information?

For teams trying to leverage this data and decrease hamstring injury incidence, we would suggest a step away from using league-wide block prevention strategies. All teams do not train the same and do not expose their athletes to the same challenges/loads, therefore each of there problems would not be the same. Block prevention strategies at a league level would not necessarily correct unique problems of each team. As we have spoken about previously the manner in which one athlete responds to the demands placed on them is completely unique and individual to them. So it is our assumption that this is the root of frustration for the AFL … Whilst the annual Injury Survey is no doubt providing a good overview of injury status and an understanding of the various pathologies, using a blanket prevention strategy is potentially not the most efficient use of a team’s time. Perhaps if a more individualised and focused prevention strategy were put in place the AFL would slowly begin to see a decrease in injury incidence, prevalence and recurrence rates.  

… food for thought!  

RELATED POSTS

TOPICS

  • AFL
  • Athletes
  • Injury
  • Sports Science
  • Technology

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