Reporting on Injuries

A summary of Dr John Orchard’s 20-year data from his long term injury surveillance system for the AFL. The 2011 AFL Injury Report is a landmark study marking 20 years of the recording of injury data by the AFL.  

Injury incidence
Statistics from 2011 have shown that overall incidence has decreased and there were statistically significant falls in the 2011 incidence of hamstring muscle strains and all lower limb muscle strains. However the primary injury in the game, in terms of injury numbers and missed games remains the hamstring strain. There was a slight increase in injury prevalence in 2011, which can be attributed to higher than usual ACL injuries and fractures. For the first time since the second center rule was introduced in 2005 , there were 4 center bounce PCL injuries in 2011 after only four occurring in total for the period 2005-2010. These lower rates since 2005 have demonstrated the success of the rule. At 9 percent recurrence injuries were at a 20 year low in 2011. 

Impact of substitute rule change 
After one season of the new substitute rule (changing the bench from four interchange players to three interchange players plus one substitute), it is to early to be certain about the impact this will have upon the prevention of injuries within the sport. However evidence does suggest that there is some association between the change of this rule and the reduction in hamstring strains and other lower limb muscle strains in 2011. Shoulder injuries increased in 2011 following a long-term upward trend.

Concussion guidelines 
In 2011, the AFL medical officers association introduced revised concussion management guidelines that strengthened a more conservative approach. Rates of concussion have increased in 2011 however numbers remain low. Importantly longer term trends are relatively constant and it is likely this also represents a change in culture among AFL teams. Many sports have adopted a more conservative approach to concussion management, which may have led to a more cautious decision about return to play the week after injury.