Local football feeling the pain of an injury boom

A familiar sight as an Aquinas player watches on from the sideline. Picture by Lachlan Robb
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Following a season lost to Covid-19, local football has seen a substantial increase in serious injuries. Lachlan Robb reports.

Local football teams are experiencing a dramatic rise in serious injuries after losing last year’s season to Covid-19 and lockdowns, a paramedic and sports trainer says.

Aquinas Old Collegians Football Club trainer Katelyn Redfern said there were many more injuries than usual this season.

“I would say the injury rate among the men’s teams are double what they would normally be at this halfway point of the season,” she said.

Not only have I seen an increase in the frequency of injuries, but the injuries themselves are more severe, and therefore require the players to have several weeks or more on the sidelines.

Carlton VFL football operations coordinator Ash Naulty said clubs could use some help from the AFL on the issue.

“Greater education for players and trainers at the amateur level could have a strong impact in both mitigating injury risk and improving recovery,” he said.

“Particularly if you could have AFL-level trainers providing online courses or even talks at local clubs, I think it’s something that could hold great value and should definitely be explored moving forward.”

Local football feeling the pain of an injury boom
Aquinas player Nick Haylock receives treatment in the pre-game leadup. Picture by Lachlan Robb.

Mr Naulty, who also formally served as the senior head coach for AOCFC, said dealing with the increase of serious injuries was a greater struggle for local-level football clubs than clubs at the elite level.

“Quality and standard of resources are obviously quite different, but player commitment and diligence are the major keys to managing injury prevention and rehabilitation,” he said.

Naturally, players who are potential draftees or play for their livelihood are going to be more diligent than people who play as a hobby or outlet, so managing this at the local level will be a challenge.

The AOCFC, has been hit particularly hard by injury this season, with several senior men’s players suffering season-ending trauma.

Several ruptured ACLs, concussions, and a leg fracture were among some of the worst injuries suffered by Aquinas players.

However, Ms Redfern said non-contact soft-tissue complaints had been the most prevalent problem.

“This season, we have seen a more frequent occurrence of strains, minor and major tears of groins, with about half a dozen players experiencing this, something that did not occur very often in prior seasons,” she said.

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This post-lockdown boom of injuries sustained in local football mirrors that of the elite sporting leagues.

Frontiers in Sports and Active Living conducted a retrospective study on the German Soccer League, Bundesliga, who were the first major sporting league to resume play after Covid-19 lockdowns halted the 2019-2020 season.

The study, conducted at the beginning of 2021, found players were now three times more likely to suffer a significant injury than before going into lockdown.

“As professional sporting organisations continue to grapple with the repercussions of the pandemic, athletic trainers and coaching staff must be aware of a potential increase in risk for all injury types, with an emphasis on those of musculoskeletal origin,” the study said.