Here I want to re-enforce some facts and information relating to commencing pre-season. Obviously this is coming from a physiotherapists perspective and so the focus is going to be around injury. We will look at incidence of injury across the season, injury risk reduction programs and the best way to approach the coming pre-season.
Recent information from the AFL injury database showed significant increase in injuries at both the start of the season and the end of the season.
Why is this?
Some of the conclusions drawn were that injuries at the start of the season may be related to decreased ‘readiness’ for return to matches, the pre-season being too long, or the intensity being higher.
Conclusions about late season were of some players opting for end of season surgeries earlier than the end of the season.
Mid season is often a time where the focus is highly on recovery for the next game and less intense training is undertaken and so this may be why injury incidence is lower.
Are there effective ways to reduce the risk of injury?
We know from numerous studies that injury prevention programs can have significant effects on reducing incidence of injury. The FIFA 11+ program is one such program that shows significantly reduced incidence of lower limb injuries.
We also know that the Nordic hamstring program has significant effects on reducing hamstring injury. Reduction of first time hamstring injury of up to 59% and 86% for recurrent hamstring injuries (for further details and references see link to aspetar at end of this article).
The problem is that although we have access to great data and studies that prove injury incidence can be reduced, hamstring and ACL injury statistics have remained unchanged. Probably because these programs are not implemented effectively.
What are some of the factors that elevate injury risk in AFL football?
As detailed in the AFL fact sheet from Sports Medicine Australia (see link at end of article) there are a number of factors which contribute to higher risk of injury:
- previous injury history in the last year
- being older than 25
- midfield greater than key positions
- persistent back problems as diagnosed by a health professional
- a combination of older age and reduced quads flexibility for sustaining hamstring injury
- History of 2 or more lower body injuries during the last season
So what does all this mean and how can we best approach the pre-season?
- implement structured programs based on the evidence, adhere to these programs as per the specific frequency and dosage and maintain these programs over numerous seasons. These can be team based or individual based strategies. Examples of the FIFA11+ and Nordic hamstring programs have already been mentioned
- If you have a previous history of injury then follow this up - seeing a physiotherapist is an excellent way to initiate this.
- Ensuring you are conditioned appropriately to initiate the training volumes of pre-season and matches is very important. Strength and conditioning professionals can help you with individual and team programs.
See the links below if you would like to read further information on the above topics.