With more women tackling contact sports, including Australian football and soccer, the rate of knee injury among players is also on the rise. An estimated 5% of the 500,000 women playing Australian football are likely to sustain an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury each year.
La Trobe’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre researchers, led by Professor Kay Crossley, have secured an NHMRC Partnership grant to work with the AFL and other partners to the evaluate the effectiveness of Prep-to-Play, a La Trobe-developed program aimed at curbing injury.
Professor Crossley said sports such as Australian football – which involve pivoting, turning, jumping and landing – were growing rapidly, but proving risky to knees, particularly among young, active women.
Professor Crossley, a clinical sports physiotherapist said:
“A woman who has had an ACL injury is four to six times more at risk of osteoarthritis than an uninjured woman.”
“A woman with an ACL injury is twice as likely to require a knee joint replacement later in life and is one-and-a-half times more likely to develop chronic cardiovascular disease. These longer-term injuries or diseases can have lasting affects one physical and mental health. They also put a burden on our healthcare system.”
Professor Crossley worked with AFL coaches and players to create Prep-to-Play, which provides resources to help grassroots football coaches and female players enhance performance while reducing injury risk.
The NHMRC funding will enable Professor Crossley and her team to work with partners – the AFL, Medibank, the Australian Physiotherapy Association, the Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians and Sports Medicine Australia – to evaluate Prep-to-Play’s uptake and effectiveness over two community football seasons (2021 and 2022) in Victoria.
Dr Linda Swan – Medibank’s Chief Medical Officer and executive lead of the Medibank Better Health Foundation – said research can be a catalyst for change in government policy and community practices. She said it’s up to coaches, parents and carers to ensure children and teenagers are warming up properly, to greatly reduce the risk of injury.
Dr Swan said: