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ACL injuries in AFL Football

ACL injuries in AFL Football

The anterior cruciate ligament in the knee is often abbreviated to be called the ACL.

ACL injuries over the last decade have become significantly more prevalent. Currently, they are the second most common injury (after hamstring strains) in AFL (Australian football / Aussie Rules) . For the period between 2004-2013 there was an average of 15 Knee reconstructions per year in the AFL. Furthermore, 18% of these were performed on patients who had previously undergone the same operation. In 2015 there were around 12 ACL ruptures, with some higher profile examples. These included; Eric Mackenzie (West Coast Eagles), Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs) and Claye Beams (Brisbane Lions).

As an amateur Aussie-rules player, Matt is personally aware of the impact of this type of injury as he has sustained 2 of these himself and undergone 2 knee reconstructions. It is a very difficult process to be a part of. A large part of the problem being the relatively large amount of rehabilitation time required to return to unrestricted sport and activity.

Having also rehabilitated countless individuals on their ACL rupture journey, Matt & the other Physios at Paddington Physiotherapy have seen both first and second hand some of the pitfalls, challenges and successes that it can present.

If you have injured your knee, arrange a time with one of our physios at your earliest availability. Knee Injuries that have Prehabilitation (before Surgery Physiotherapy treatment) tend to fare better than if you have surgery without physio prior. You can specify on the booking form which Physiotherapist you would like to consult. You can book online or call 35116352.


Below are some of Matt’s top tips for getting through the emotional and physical rollercoaster ride of rehabilitating ACL injuries:
  1. Perspective: While this injury represents a long time out of activity, it still enables good early return to simple activities. Such activities include; walking, most mild-moderate activity work situations and restricted exercise in the first few weeks. Then, the return to jogging comes next after around 12-16 weeks.
  2. Have a Plan: The easiest way to fall behind, become complacent or to lose motivation is to not have a rehabilitation plan. This initially includes short term (i.e. what do I need to do right now?). And secondly, long term (i.e. what will I be doing next?, and when can I return to running/training/sport?).
  3. Expect hiccups: The human body does not heal in a linear pattern. It just doesn’t. After a major operation and significant amount of time away from activity, there’s guaranteed to be issues faced. Most of which are faced and overcome by all ACL-rehabers. This can easily cause distress and worry if you aren’t warned or prepared for them. Most importantly, accept that as you keep increasing your activity levels (i.e. from jogging to sprinting, or from straight lines to change of direction) that your knee might pull up achey and sore. This is normal and a mild amount of discomfort should not be a concern. Anything long-lasting, causing excessive discomfort or that you are concerned about – ask your rehabilitating physiotherapist about and they will be happy to help.
  4. End-stage Rehabilitation needs to be specific: To get back to your chosen sport, your knee needs to be gradually exposed to the same movements it would experience in a normal match. This means sprinting, turning, jumping all at game-pace whilst concentrating on winning the ball/tackling your opponent. You are GUARANTEED to be unsuccessful if you do not perform adequate and progressively difficult game-like rehabilitation, training and simulation.
  5. Stay involved with your team: One of the best ways to stay motivated is to use your normal training times and venue to conduct your rehab. This may include doing it for 15mins before training initially, to jogging around drills, and even joining in for the warm up when able. You’ll be surprised at how much easier your rehab will be when you do it around others.

Reference for Statistics