While many Australians have been walking, running and cycling to maintain their fitness during quarantine, physiotherapists are warning this doesn’t mean they’re ready to go straight back into a local footy, netball or soccer game.
Physiotherapist and La Trobe University Sport and Exercise Research Centre PhD candidate Brooke Patterson said a carefully planned return to competitive sport will help avoid common sports injuries to hamstrings, knees, ankles and hips/groins.
The former AFLW player said: “Maintaining general fitness from running and walking is great while competitive sport hasn’t been possible, but we need to remind all teams and players that they need to return to sport gradually when restrictions ease.”
Ms Patterson has run several injury reduction programs in local sports clubs based on a combination of targeted strength and balance exercises. These types of programs can decrease hamstring injuries as well as reduce knee, ankle and hip/groin injuries. Research shows ACL injuries can be reduced by 50% to 67% in female athletes, and overall injuries by 27% to 39%, in both male and female football players..
Ms Patterson has called for sports clubs and individuals to consult their local physio to help put together a graded return to sport training plan, or to work with coaches to implement adequate injury prevention training.
“As a competitive sports person myself, I’m itching to get back out onto the footy field and be with my teammates, but we can’t just jump straight back into high speed running, agility and contact activities and expect we’ll be fine.”
“We need to return gradually. With proper training, we can avoid injuries that will wipe us out for the rest of the season.”
Caulfield Grammarians Football Club women’s coach Mitch Dupljanin has seen the benefits of this injury prevention program with his senior team, who completed it three times a week - at training and on game day - during the 2019 season. Out of a playing group of 56 women, there were no serious knee injuries during the season. This compared to the three season-ending injuries that occurred in 2018. So successful has the program been, that Mitch has also provided it to the team to use outside of their normal training sessions to improve leg work and knee strength.
Mitch says, “The buy-in from the women has been excellent, especially those who have played a few seasons of footy already. They know how devastating injuries can be and want to do whatever they can to avoid that happening.”
“It’s just part of our standard training now. The women have really embraced it because they have experienced first-hand how beneficial it is.”
If you’re returning to competitive sport or increasing your physical activity (now that gyms have reopened in some parts of Australia), consider consulting a physiotherapist to discuss a staged return, suitable to your needs, that could help prevent injury.
Brooke Patterson is a physiotherapist, graduating from La Trobe University in 2011. She is currently completing her PhD at the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre. Her research investigates the impact of anterior cruciate ligament injury on the lives of young adults, particularly the risk of arthritis at a young age. Brooke played for Melbourne FC in the first 3 seasons of the AFLW, is now a development coach working with first year AFLW players and has sustained an ACL injury (not to mention just about every other injury!) herself playing basketball. Brooke is involved in current AFL projects, aimed at holistic strategies to reduce injuries and optimise performance, including coach and player education. She has hands on experience as a player and coach at an elite and community level and hopes to continue to develop strategies in a collaborative manner to improve the health, wellbeing and performance all athletes.
Now more than ever, we're here to help
Your health and wellbeing are front and centre of everything we do. Learn more about how Medibank is providing support to our members during this time.