AFL Bodywell

Returning to footy? – Let’s chat about common injuries and correct preparation for the season ahead!

It’s that time of year – footy is back on the telly, practice matches are starting, and unfortunately for some players, injuries are starting to occur before the season has really gotten underway!

Either you’re an avid player that’s been keeping on top of your training and maintaining your fitness over the holiday break, or perhaps you’re like the majority who’ve had a few quiet months and are now trying to get back into the game without proper preparation.

If you’ve spent the past few months doing minimal training, your body might have become “deconditioned” i.e. your muscles, joints, and ligaments aren’t performing at the same level as they were pre-Christmas.

AFL is a high intensity game with big hits and fast paced moves, and without the correct conditioning, you could be increasing your chance of injury and beginning the season starting in the left back (at the clubrooms) pocket.

What are some of the most common injuries?

According to the 2020 AFL injury report the three most common injuries in 2020 were hamstring strains, calf strains, and medical illness, which is consistent with the 2019 season.

Hamstring strain is the most common injury in the AFL – totalling 4.86 new injuries per club, and the most common cause of matches missed with 15 AFL matches missed per club. (Obtained from:

Hamstring strain: There are 3 muscles that make up your hamstring. A strain is an over stretch or tear of these muscles, with the biceps femoris Groin Bodywell muscle being the one which is most commonly injured. This type of injury might occur when running, jumping, or kicking.

Groin strain: 5 muscles are within your groin/inner thigh. The most common of these to be injured is the adductor longus, which might occur during tackles or slides on the footy ground.

Calf strain: There are 6 muscles that compose the back of the calf, and the one that makes up the bulk of the area (the gastrocnemius) is the most common to be strained, especially with quick direction changes and sprinting.

ACL knee injury: There are two ligaments in your knee called the ACL and PCL that stop your knee from moving too far forwards and backwards away from your thigh bone respectively. Injury to the ACL results from excessive load on the ligament, such as sudden stopping motions or trauma to the knee during tackles.

The degree of damage to these structures can vary from a small over stretching and minor injury, to a complete rupture where the muscle or ligament is no longer connected to the bone..

(Image reference:–conditions/hamstring-muscle-injuries/ )

Risk factors for sustaining an injury

  • Increased age
  • Previous injury to the area
  • Poor muscle strength
  • Insufficient warm-up
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Reduced core body strength
  • Reduced foot and ankle strength/stability
  • Increased weight

How to prevent injury? Correct preparation is key!

  • Attend your training sessions and maintain your fitness levels – this will help to reduce the onset of fatigue that leads to poor movements ending in injury
  • Put in the extra time to keep your fitness up, even outside of your usual training sessions (this should include not only cardio fitness but muscle strength and conditioning too)
  • Pay special attention to any areas that you have sustained injuries to in the past          Training Football Bodywell
    Keep hydrated
  • WARM-UP before training and playing! (Running, dynamic movement, stretching, strength, and balance)
  • Cool down and proper recovery is also important – even after training (this includes good sleep, water, nutrition, and active recovery strategies)

Image reference:

What to do if you become injured

If you find that you’ve become injured, the initial steps to take are PRICER: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Referral.

You can self-refer to see one of our osteopaths who will be able to assess your injury and provide hands-on treatment (if appropriate) and advice.

Bodywell’s osteopath’s William Gunn, Bridget Hammond and Sarah Collins have a particular interest in the management of sports injuries. If you would like to make an appointment, you can book online here:

Or if you have any questions, please call us on (03) 9717 1200 or email us at