AFLW ACL injury statistics need to probe for more than a knee-jerk reaction: Brandon Jack column

I really do hate statistics sometimes. Particularly when I see headlines like, “Women’s ACL risk a lot higher” and read the opening line, “Women are almost five times more likely to suffer anterior cruciate ligament tears playing football than men…” and I know full well that a statistic, which might not be factually incorrect, but is still not entirely true, has worked it’s way into the words I’ve read.

I knew where this exact statistic had come from because earlier in the week I had read it in the AFLW 2019 injury report. “When scaled for comparability to the AFL Injury Report, the ACL injury incidence becomes 5.1 injuries per 1000 player hours in the 2019 AFLW season.” For reference, the rate in men’s AFL is only 1.1 per 1000 player hours, and as 5.1 divided by 1.1 is … drum roll please … almost 5, we get the above statement.

Erin Phillips tore her ACL during the AFLW grand final. Despiter the injury, she won the best-on-ground medal.Credit:Getty

The issue with scaling for comparison is that it can be misleading and blow the truth out of proportion. In a rather primitive example, I can run 100 metres in 12 seconds (humour me please) but I sure as hell can’t run 1000 metres in 120 seconds. Otherwise I’d be off to Tokyo next year and it’s fair to say we’d have a gold medal coming our way.

Yes, it has been found that female’s do suffer higher rates of ACL injuries. There are many theories on the anatomic, hormonal, biomechanical, and even social reasons for this, however there is no general consensus on what the cause is. But what is generally agreed upon is that prehabilitation is a way to reduce the risk of the injury occurring.


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