Summary

  • Australian rules football is a physical contact sport that can result in injuries from tackling, kicking, running, handballing, marking and constant physical competition.
  • Common causes of football injuries are being tackled, collisions with other players, hit by the ball and falls.
  • Being physically prepared and using the right techniques can help prevent injury.
Australian rules football (AFL) is one of the most popular sports for players and spectators in Australia. This very physical contact sport often results in injuries from tackling, kicking, running, handballing, marking and constant physical competition for the ball.

Common injuries while playing AFL


Common causes of football injuries are being tackled, collisions with another player, hit by the ball and falls. Injuries to the thigh, knee, lower leg and ankle are the most common non-hospital-treated injuries. Hospital-admitted injuries (which make up 30% of all Australian Football hospital presentations) are usually fractures, sprains or strains affecting the wrists, hands, shoulders, head or face, lower leg and knee.

Preventing injury while playing AFL


To prevent injury you should:
  • Be prepared
  • Provide a safe environment
  • Wear the right protective gear.

Be prepared to play AFL


Remember to:
  • Train before the season so your body is ready to compete. Pre-season training can improve strength, flexibility, stamina, agility and balance.
  • Learn, practise and use correct skills and techniques before playing.
  • Do a complete warm up, including stretching, slow jogging and running activities, with and without a football.
  • Eat a balanced, nutritional diet.
  • Drink water before, during and after a game or training session.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol 48 hours before a game and straight after a game.

Provide a safe environment for AFL


Suggestions include:
  • Check the ground to remove or cover hazardous objects, such as broken glass or sprinkler heads.
  • Make sure fences are a minimum of three metres from the boundary line.
  • Ensure goalposts are padded with high-density foam, at least two metres high and 35 millimetres thick. Padding should be in good condition and replaced when worn or damaged.
  • Make sure qualified first aid personnel, first aid kits, icepacks and a stretcher are available at all times.
  • Check that telephone access, to contact emergency services, is available.

Wear the right protective gear


Make sure you:
  • Wear a mouthguard, preferably custom-fitted, at all times.
  • Wear protective headgear, ankle braces and thigh protectors if you have a history of head, ankle or thigh injuries.
  • Seek professional advice about the most appropriate boots to wear for playing conditions.
  • Wear sunscreen and re-apply during breaks on sunny days.

If injury occurs while playing AFL


If you or someone else is injured:
  • Seek prompt attention from qualified first aid personnel for any injuries.
  • Return to the field after injury only after a health professional decides it is safe.
  • Make sure you are fully rehabilitated before returning to play after injury.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Sports physician
  • Physiotherapist
  • Australian Physiotherapy Association Tel. (03) 9092 0888
  • Always call triple zero for an ambulance in an emergency Tel. 000
  • Smartplay Tel. (03) 9674 8777

Things to remember

  • Australian rules football is a physical contact sport that can result in injuries from tackling, kicking, running, handballing, marking and constant physical competition.
  • Common causes of football injuries are being tackled, collisions with other players, hit by the ball and falls.
  • Being physically prepared and using the right techniques can help prevent injury.
References
  • Smartplay Victoria, 2005, Drink up - hydration, Sports Medicine Australia – Victoria. More information here.
  • Smartplay Victoria, 2007, Preventing Australian football injuries – facts and safety tips for Australian Football players, Sports Medicine Australia – Victoria. More information here.
  • Finch C, Lloyd D, Elliot B. The Preventing Australian Football Injuries with eXercise (PAFIX) study – a group randomised controlled trial. Inj Prev. 2009;15:el.
  • Cassell E, Kerr E, Clapperton A. Adult sports injury hospitalisations in 16 sports: the football codes, other team ball sports, team bat and stick sports and racquet sports. Hazard. Summer 2012;No.74

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Smartplay

Last updated: June 2014

Page content currently being reviewed.

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.