AFLW Injury Report: ACLs on the rise, concussions stable

THE AFL on Thursday released the fourth annual AFLW Injury Report for the 2020 NAB AFL Women’s Competition which showed that the overall injury incidence and prevalence has remained relatively stable compared to recent years even with four new teams entering the competition.

General Manager Women’s Football Nicole Livingstone said the injury incidence (number of new injuries per club per season) in 2020 was slightly elevated at 7.0 compared to 6.8 in 2019, and injury prevalence (number of missed matches per club per season) in 2020 was 24.4 compared to 17.8 in 2019.

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While muscle injury incidence (particularly hamstring strains) remains lower in the AFLW when compared to the AFL competition, ACL injuries have exhibited the highest incidence and prevalence of all injury categories in AFLW, a trend consistent with worldwide published female athlete ACL injury data. There were 7.5 ACL injuries per 1000 player hours compared to 5.1 in 2019.

Livingstone said the AFL Female Football Prep-to-Play national injury prevention program is science-based and aims to provide resources to support football coaches and female players enhance their performance while reducing the risk of injury.

We continue to change the Laws of the Game to discourage high contact and also moved early in 2020 to change the Tribunal guidelines to more strictly sanction tackles that endanger the head

Nicole Livingstone

"Player health and safety at all levels of Australian Football remains paramount," Livingstone said.

"The education of coaches, players and support staff is critical to ensure we do better in looking after AFLW footballers. The AFL will continue to support research and implement best-practice injury prevention programs across all levels of female football.

"The AFL Female Football Prep to Play Program has been a key resource for football communities from the grassroots to the elite to implement in their training programs and we will continue to work with La Trobe University to research ways in which we can decrease the incidence and prevalence of knee injuries in women’s football."

Livingstone outlined that concussion incidence (whether a match was missed or not) remains relatively stable compared to previous years, with 11.6 per 1000 player hours in 2020 compared to 11.5 in 2019. The number of matches missed due to concussion increased to 1.6 matches missed per club per season in 2020 compared to 0.5 in 2019. This reflects an ongoing conservative management approach.

"We have strengthened match day protocols for the identification and management of concussion, we continue to change the Laws of the Game to discourage high contact and also moved early in 2020 to change the Tribunal guidelines to more strictly sanction tackles that endanger the head," Livingstone said.

"The AFL further strengthened the return to play aspects of the Concussion Management Guidelines for the 2021 AFL and AFLW seasons which will see players sidelined for at least 12 days if they suffer a concussion. This reflects the ongoing conservative approach in managing concussions.  

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"The results of the 2020 Injury Report have a direct impact on the AFL’s investment into injury research across all levels of the game, from the AFLW competition right through to the grassroots level.

"The Report provides information that assists clubs and researchers to continue to investigate ways of reducing injury rates, as well as improving injury management.
"Our aim is to continue to provide players with an environment that is as safe as possible in a contact sport and this data allows us to support ongoing research into injury prevention and management."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT A snapshot of round two

The 2020 AFLW Injury Report results were presented to the AFL Doctors and Physiotherapists Associations, along with all clubs earlier on Thursday.

Livingstone thanked the AFL doctors, physiotherapists and the clubs for their continued support and involvement in providing data for the 2020 AFLW Injury Report.