A knee expert has urged parents not to shield their daughters from footy, after the injury-marred start to the AFLW season.
Daria Bannister (Western Bulldogs), Brianna Davey (Carlton) and Isabel Huntington (Western Bulldogs) have been sidelined for months after rupturing their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL).
The Bulldogs confirmed on Monday Huntington — the number one draft pick in last year’s AFLW draft — would miss the rest of the season after going down in Sunday’s game against the Brisbane Lions.
Another two players — Ainslie Kemp (Melbourne) and Sam Virgo (Brisbane) — suffered the same injury during the preseason.
Unfortunately, these injuries are not entirely unexpected, given women are much more likely than men to damage their knee ligaments while playing sport.
“We know that females are two to three times more likely to rupture their ACL,” Melbourne footballer Brooke Patterson said
Patterson is also a physiotherapist and is doing a PhD on anterior cruciate ligament injuries at La Trobe University.
Data collected from last year’s inaugural AFLW season confirmed the trend.
The men do just under one (ACL) per club over the season, and the females were sitting around one per club but obviously only over an eight-week season, as opposed to a 23-week season for the men,” Patterson said.
The higher rate of injury among females is primarily due to physiological factors, such as the size, shape and movement of bones and ligaments in the hips and legs.
It is a depressing reality that could be enough for some parents to think twice about signing their daughters up, but Patterson said that would be a mistake.
“The last thing we want is mums and dads sitting at home thinking, ‘God, I don’t want my daughter to go and play football, she’s going to do a knee, she’s going to get injured’,” she said.
We know the benefits of being physically active and being involved in community sport far outweigh the risks or consequences of getting injured.”
Patterson has been working with other researchers to develop injury-prevention programs targeting female footballers.
She runs a blog with La Trobe University, which offers resources to players and coaches, and has also conducted workshops across Victoria.
“If we get it out there, the girls are usually quite receptive to it, it’s just about education, teaching them how to move better,” she said
The programs typically involve exercises that can be incorporated into training, such as single-leg squats, lunges and learning to jump and land safely.
She said similar programs run in other sports had been shown to reduce injury rates by up to 50 per cent.
Because of the way we are made, it actually means that females have to be a little bit stronger to control some of that excess movement that we do have
“The programs not only reduce injuries, but have also been shown to improve performance, for example, agility and vertical jumps, and also increased games won,” she said.