Symptoms And Treatment Of Common AFL Injuries

Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue

Australian Rules Football (AFL) is in many ways an extraordinary sport. Many first time viewers of the sport are shocked at the ferocity and intensity the game is played at without any such body padding or protection. Not to mention how confused they are as to what is going on!

The nature of AFL means that impact injury rates tend to be high – Collisions, clashing of bodies, tackling, stray knees and elbows and broken bones. A quick look at the potential injury list could have you thinking AFL shares a closer affinity with the UFC than any other sport. While these injuries can occur, the more common injuries revolve largely around muscle strains, general overuse injuries and tendon and ligament injuries.

Common AFL injuries

• Hamstring muscle strains
• Calf muscle strains
• Quadriceps muscle strains
• Groin muscle strains
• Osteitis Pubis
• Sprained Ankle
• Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear

• Corked thigh
• Posterior Cruciate ligament (PCL) tear
• Shin Splints
• Stress Fractures
• AC joint shoulder injury
• Plantar fasciitis
• Muscle cramps

Knee injuries – ACL tears

While the majority of these injuries are manageable and treatable, knee injuries such as ACL or PCL tears can result in a lengthy stint on the sidelines. Well known in football circles for being career ending, ACL tears usually equate to about 1 year out of the game and an extensive rehabilitation program following a knee reconstruction.
In years gone by ACL injuries were considered in some cases to be career ending; however with modern noninvasive operations to reconstruct the knee recovery time is continuing to be cut down and can now be as little as a few months. The ACL provides around 90% of the legs stability and ACL injuries are often a result of quick changes of direction.

acl tears
High profile ACL injuries to AFL players in recent years:

• Daniel Menzel, 4 ACL tears
• Alex Johnson, 5 ACL tears
• Taylor Walker
• Matthew Suckling

• Jonathon Patton
• Christian Petracca
• Chris Judd

Rehabilitation programs for an ACL tear post-surgery aim to reestablish range of motion, strengthen and reeducate hamstrings and quads and build power. This is done by executing exercises such as lunges, squats, wall sits, hamstring curls, leg press, deadlifts, pool running, exercise bike and lateral jumping.

Muscle strains and tears

Undoubtedly the ACL tear ranks as one of the most devastating injuries to athletes, however the injury that remains most common amongst AFL players is the muscle strain or tear. Muscles most affected include: Hamstring, quadriceps, calf, groin, and pectoral.

A study in 2015 found the incidence of hamstring strains in the AFL was almost 5 times more than any other muscle strain. High intensity, high speed and the kicking motion are all contributors to hamstring strains. There is however some positive news in recent years with studies finding the recurrence rate of hamstring injuries is dropping, most probably due to successful rehabilitation programs.

Symptoms of a muscle strain or tear:
• Sudden pain or impingement during exercise
• Tenderness
• Bruising

Depending on the grade of strain, treatment will usually include dry needling, massage and an exercise program with the aim to reduce pain, increase flexibility, strengthen area and lessen the chance of reinjuring the muscle.

AFL related overuse injuries

The demands of playing football every week, regardless of what level, can take a serious toll on the body. Recovery mechanisms and training methods at the elite level in today’s game are extremely advanced; consequentially the close management and prevention of overuse injuries is a real focus.

At the local level it is a little bit more difficult, with work and family occupying most of the time, local footballers can be extra susceptible to overuse injuries such as Osteitis Pubis, stress fractures, shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

Steps to prevent and manage overuse injuries

• Manage work load – If your body is telling you to rest, consult your coach and come up with a plan to lessen the load and work on something else. Replacing a running session with a weights session or core workout is a great solution.

• Warm up and stretch – Stretching pre and post exercise has been regarded as a surefire way to prevent and manage overuse injuries particularly for osteitis Pubis and stress fractures. Make sure you do it correctly. Dynamic stretching before exercise and static stretching after exercise is a good starting point.

• Use correct equipment – Consult a health professional or shoe expert on what boot is right for your foot.

• Concentrate on technique.

Other injuries

One of the more painful and debilitating injuries associated with AFL is an old fashioned ‘corky’. Often there is a stigma that corky’s are not serious and people playing football may be less inclined to follow the suitable course of treatment and rehabilitation. In some cases without treatment corky’s can lead to muscle calcification where bone will grow within the muscle at the site of the bruise.

Implementing a R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, elevation) regime until you can be assessed is the best course of action. Corky’s can often be complicated, exercising too soon can lead to a full rupture and prescribing heat and massage too soon may cause bone to form within the muscle. Contacting a health professional is definitely advised.

If you play football and are currently injured make an appointment to see one of our experienced practitioners. With plenty of football knowledge and a great understanding of related injuries they will have you back kicking goals in no time

All of Muscle Joint Bone Clinic’s, our practitioners are government registered healthcare professionals. For more information on how a we can help you, or to book an appointment contact us on (03) 9174 9174.

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