Geelong players help to solve AFLW’s biggest mystery

Players at the Geelong Football Club are participating in a new research project hoping to tackle an injury plague that is cruelling the AFLW.

Members of the Cats’ women’s program will work with the Deakin University’s Centre for Sport Research on a study looking to determine whether the movement and technique of some AFLW players make them more susceptible to ACL injuries

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Last year’s AFLW Injury Report indicated ACL injuries were on the rise in the women’s game, with 7.5 occurring per 1000 playing hours as compared with 5.1 in 2019.

The research project will also compare the movement patterns of male and female footballers and hope to solve the mystery of why women’s players experience ACL injuries at a higher rate than their male counterparts.

“The reasons women have higher rates of ACL ruptures than men are likely to be multifactorial, but differences in lower limb biomechanics could be an important factor which deserves investigation,” explained Dr Stephen Gill of Deakin University’s School of Medicine and St John of God Hospital.

Dr Gill’s team will put players through a range of tests in order to determine whether certain movements and techniques are correlated with ACL injuries.

“As part of this lab-based research, players will be fitted with reflective markers and asked to complete a variety of physical tests, such as jumping and catching a ball,” he said.

“We want to look at how players move during unanticipated sidestepping and when landing while taking a mark as this will give us a picture of their body movements and the stress this is placing on certain key joints, such as knees.”

Madisen Maguire is one of the Geelong players participating in Deakin University's study. Image: SuppliedCamera IconMadisen Maguire is one of the Geelong players participating in Deakin University's study. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Geelong’s head of AFLW Brett Johnson said the club was committed to solving the mystery behind the high rates of ACL injury.

“It is important that we continue to explore the environmental and sociocultural factors, along with biological determinants, to truly challenge the ACL injury problem in women’s football,” he said.

“The club will continue to work with our major partner Deakin University and the AFL to strive to understand the whole system, and question how to address inequities for the benefit of female footballers.”

The research project follows on from another study at Deakin University that compared injury-related hospitalisations among male and female Aussie rules footballers. The study found female Aussie rules footballers had higher rates of hand, finger and certain knee injuries as well as neck sprains.

“Ultimately, we hope to better understand and assess risk factors for injury so that we can implement evidence-based and individualised injury prevention programs for our players,” Dr Gill said.

The Fort News