The words ‘torn anterior cruciate ligament’ puts shudders through every AFL player and supporter.
It’s the injury no player wants and brings sadness to fans with the realisation that a player is likely to miss the rest of the season through a knee reconstruction. Unfortunately for football fans, it has been heard more than anyone would like so far this season.
Last year 16 players tore their ACLs, according to the 2012 AFL injury report. This season that figure is already 13. In round five alone, Alan Toovey, Kepler Bradley and Taylor Walker all suffered season ending knee injuries.
While the AFL has said the rise in knee injuries is not a cause for concern, others are rightly worried about the impact it is having on the game. ACL tears and ruptures are the big name injuries, but the number of injuries across the board is causing concern.
Many of these injuries have been impact injuries or the result of landing the wrong way, so on face value it is a case of bad luck. If you look deeper, the fascination of making players fitter, faster and stronger than ever is having an impact. Players are training for longer with shorter off season breaks and it is naturally going to put pressure on player’s bodies.
Coupled with the AFL’s push to slow down the game by reducing interchanges and breaks in the game, it is proving to be a dangerous mix. With less opportunity to rest, players are going to push their bodies even further to get to the ball.
Players don’t want to be seen as weak, so many will push through minor strains when, in the past, they would have stopped.
Players and clubs have expressed these concerns since the introduction of the substitute rule, with Adelaide’s Andy Otten the latest to vent his frustration via social media on Tuesday.
Instead of listening to the players, the AFL will point to the injury list and how it sits in comparison with previous years. But what the injury tally does not count is the injuries which players play through and don’t miss games through. It does not look at the strain on the bodies, which is not always measurable.
Frustratingly, the AFL looks set to put more pressure on players next season, with the introduction of the interchange cap. Players and clubs don’t want this to come in and want more research done. The AFL either will not or is not willing to listen to.
The AFL speaks about making sure that clubs look after the players’ duty of care, and it’s about time the AFL did the same thing when it comes to listening to players about injuries before we see even more players on the sidelines.