Common Injuries in AFL and Rugby
About AFL and Rugby Injuries
Both AFL and rugby are sports which require lots of speeding-up and slowing down, changing direction, and tackling. AFL also involves lots of kicking. Due to the high speed and contact needs of both games, injuries are very common, especially in higher level competitions. The most common cause of injuries in AFL or rugby is collision with another player, followed by falling. Injuries commonly occur in the lower half of the body, with less serious injury types including bruises, strains, or joint or ligament sprains. Fractures and concussions are less common, however these tend to be more serious injuries.
There are a number of factors which increase injury risk, many of which can easily be addressed:
- Feeling fatigued; becasue of lack of sleep and/or over-training with insufficient recovery
- Not wearing appropriate protective equipment
- Lack of appropriate training and being physically unprepared
- Poor technique and skills – this is especially important when it comes to tackling and side-stepping techniques
- Inadequate rehab from previous injuries, or training/competing with existing injuries
Common AFL and Rugby Injuries
1. Hamstring Strain
A hamstring strain or tear tends to be caused by a sudden movement, such as sprinting or quickly changing direction. Doing a proper warm up consisting of dynamic stretching and easing into sport-specific movements will help to prevent this kind of injury. Furthermore, improving flexibility and addressing strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscles will also help to reduce injury risk.
2. Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain is when the ligaments of the ankle are over-stretched or torn. This may occur as a result of awkwardly landing on the foot after jumping, turning or having someone land on the foot during a game. Again, improving balance, strength, and flexibilty of the ankle and lower leg muscles will help to prevent injury to the ankle.
Read more about Ankle Sprains in our previous article Most Common Cricket Injuries.
3. Calf Strains
Calf strains occur when, like with the ligaments of the ankle with an ankle sprain, the calf muscles are over-stretched or torn. This usually happens as a result of quickly speeding-up from a stationary position, or suddenly stopping after a sprint.
4. Groin Strains and ‘Osteitis Pubis’
Groin strain injuries occur when the muscles and/or tendons in the groin region are over-stretched. These muscles are used a lot when sprinting, side-stepping, or kicking. ‘Osteitis Pubis’ is a condition in which there’s inflammation where the right and left pubic bones meet at the lower front part of the pelvis. The pubis, or pubic bone, is one of three bones that make up the hip. The joint where the pubic bones meet is made of cartilage. When it and the surrounding muscles become inflamed due to stress on the joint, the result is Osteitis Pubis. Osteitis Pubis is a common cause of ongoing pain, especially in AFL players. It is an overuse injury which usually results from pelvic instability, especially movements that place asymmetrical loads on the pelvis such as running or kicking worsen the instability.
5. ACL Rupture
The ACL is an important ligament in the knee which control the back and forth motion of your knee whilst weight bearing and helps prevent over-rotation of the knee-joint. ACL injuries usually occur when a player is pivoting, suddenly slowing down, or landing awkwardly from a jump.
6. Shoulder Sprain or Dislocation
These kinds of shoulder injuries occur when the shoulder ligaments (the tissue that support and stabilise the shoulder) are over-stretched or torn, and/or the upper arm bone ‘pops out’ of the cup-shaped socket that’s part of your shoulder blade. The shoulder is the body’s most mobile joint, which makes it susceptible to dislocation. Injury to the shoulder tends to result from a high impact, direct blow to the shoulder (such as a heavy collision or falling to the ground), or extreme rotation of the shoulder (such as going for a tackle).
How to Prevent Injury
The best way to prevent an AFL or rugby injury is to be well prepared. This includes game day preparation such as warm up and cooling down, as well as ongoing training, fitness, and skill practice. Including sport-specific drills in training will also help prepare the body for the kinds of stressors it will experience during competition.
Some general tips to prevent injury are:
- Do a proper warm up before exercising
- Be extra mindful when walking or running on an uneven surface
- Wear good and firm shoes
- Practice stability training
- Maintain good muscle strength and flexibility
- Take frequent rest breaks – this will reduce the load on your joints
- Stretching exercises to encourage range of motion
Finally, if you’re experiencing any pain or niggles, or have any concerns about a potential for injury whilst competing, book in an appointment with your physiotherapist and they will help to get you to your best! Of course we’d rather help you prevent an injury than treat it, so don’t hesitate to book in for a session or an AxIT session with us to help you identify any possible weaknesses or vulnerabilities to work on before you get on the field. This way we can give you a personalized management plan and keep you away from injuries!