One step closer to injury-free football?

A sports training program that may reduce in-game injuries in grassroots AFL by 30% is about to be launched in South East Queensland.

Developed by a national team of experts, including people from Griffith University’s Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, the FootyFirst AFL program is based on the latest scientific evidence and involves warm-up, leg strengthening and conditioning exercises and training to improve balance, landing and sidestepping.

All these play a vital role in preparing players for their season of sport, reducing the risk of injury and maintaining optimum capability throughout the season.

A revamp of an earlier 2006 training program called PAFIX (Preventing Australian Football Injuries by Exercise), FootyFirst is designed to be even more effective and easier to adopt by community sports teams, says Professor David Lloyd.

“We developed the PAFIX training program to prevent some specific lower limb injuries in grassroots AFL. Based on our experience with this we’re currently trialling FootyFirst, also in grassroots AFL, where it will be more focussed on injuries of the hamstring, groin, knee and ankle.

Even better results from FootyFirst

“Over recent years, we have studied 1500 grassroots AFL players in Perth and country Victoria and have already observed a 30% reduction in in-game injury rates using the PAFIX training program. We expect even better results from FootyFirst,” said Professor Lloyd. “This is fantastic considering the fact that injuries sustained playing football can have a profound impact on individuals for the rest of their lives.

“Our newest program has been a great success in Victoria and we now aim to roll it out in South East Queensland. We need to identify ways to ensure it is adopted, implemented properly and consistently in this region for players to reap maximum benefit. We also plan to redesign it to ensure the training regime is relevant to other sporting codes, such as Rugby League,” said Professor Lloyd.

Endorsed by the AFL Medical Officers Association, the FootyFirst resources comprise a comprehensive training manual, posters and a DVD detailing the five levels of training. It includes recommended equipment, step-by-step images, video footage, common faults and key points to ensure and avoid.

The research team from the University of Ballarat, Griffith University, Monash University and the University of Western Australia is funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) via Partnership and Project Grants.