By Star Physio Todd Lonie.

With AFL footy season kicking off around the country, no doubt everyone has been working hard through the preseason and intensity levels are increasing.

Sporting injuries however, come with the territory of the game. The top five most common football (AFL) related injuries are:

Hamstring Strain
Definition:
An injury to the hamstring muscle/s or tendons where fibres tear due to over stretching.

Symptoms:
– Pain in the posterior thigh, may feel sharp or appear quite sudden
– Swelling and bruising may be evident
– Generally occurs during running/high velocity movements

Quick Classification:
– Grade 1 – still able to jog (miss 1-2 games)
– Grade 2 – only able to walk (miss 2-3 games)
– Grade 3 – unable to walk, requires assistance (miss 4-6 games)

Prevention:
– Gluteal strengthening exercises
– Adequate warm up before activity
– Eccentric hamstring strengthening exercises

ACL Injury
Definition:
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the main ligament in the knee for stability which helps prevent anterior sheer of the tibia on the femur. The ligament itself can be sprained or completely torn.

Common Causes of Injury:
– Deceleration with an attempt to change direction
– Forced hyper extension of knee
– Pivoting with near full knee extension whilst the foot is planted
– Landing from a height with knee in or near full extension

Symptoms:
– Rapid/hot effusion within 24hrs
– Audible “pop” or “crack” from inside of knee at time of injury
– Pain bad enough to not continue activity

Classification:
– Grade 1 – Mild Tear
– Grade 2 – Moderate Tear
– Grade 3 – Complete Tear

Prevention:
– Quadriceps and hamstring strengthening exercises
– Adequate footwear
– Balance/proprioceptive exercises (both double and single leg)

Ankle Sprain
Definition:
Commonly reared to as being a “rolled ankle”, an injury to the ankle joint where one or more ligaments are torn or partially torn.

Symptoms:
– Pain in/around ankle joint
o Particularly tender over any damaged ligaments
– Swelling and bruising may be evident
– Usually occurs with trauma to the region or sudden rolling over of ankle (e.g. uneven ground)

Prevention:
– Proprioceptive/balance exercises (both double and single leg)
– Local muscle strengthening to the ankle joint (invertors/evertors of the foot, calves)
– Sports Taping: Ankle stability

AC Joint Sprain
Definition:
Damage to the ligaments of the acromioclavicular joint of the shoulder.

Symptoms:
– Pain at the distal end of the clavicle
– A “step” deformity may be evident
– Pain with movement of the shoulder
– Swelling may be evident, depending on severity

Common Causes:
– Falling onto an outstretched arm

Contusion
Definition:
Impact to a muscle resulting in damage and bleeding around the site of contact.

Symptoms:
– Pain in the area of impact
– Bruising/swelling
– Movement may be restricted of the involved limb

In all of the above situations, acute management is essential and should follow the below guidelines.

Support the injury. If possible, keep immobile until further medical assessment has been made to determine severity of damage. Try using a bandage or sports taping.
Protect yourself from any further injury! This means removing yourself from the game/training and adhering to medical personnel instruction.
Rest the injured body part to allow healing to take place.
Ice the injury for pain relief as well as reducing the inflammation that may be present. General rule: Ice for 20 minutes followed by rest for 40 minutes. Repeat as required.
Compress the area if able with bandage/s to reduce the inflammation.
Elevate the injured body part to help reduce inflammation. Try to elevate the body part above heart level if able.
Medication may be helpful – Seek advice from medical personnel.
Mobilisation of the injured body part may be possible to begin the rehabilitation process. Only gentle movements within pain limits are encouraged after medical assessment if appropriate.
Modalities such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation may be useful in rehabilitation to aid reduction of inflammation associated with the injury.

Physiotherapy can make a difference to all of the above injuries in terms of rehabilitation as well as prevention. At Star Physio we can:
– Create/modify rehabilitation programs to suit your requirements
– Carry out soft tissue therapy to aid progression of healing
– Utilise and teach supportive sports taping
– Educate and perform acute management for your injury
– Assess severity of your injury and if required, refer onwards to specialist treatment

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