To assess the relationships between player characteristics (including age, playing experience, ethnicity, and physical fitness) and in-season injury in elite Australian football.
Single-cohort, prospective, longitudinal study.
Player characteristics (height, body mass, age, experience, ethnicity, playing position), preseason fitness (6-min run, 40-m sprint, 6 × 40-m sprint, vertical jump), and in-season injury data were collected over 4 seasons from 1 professional Australian football club. Data were analyzed for 69 players, for a total of 3879 player rounds and 174 seasons. Injury risk (odds ratio [OR]) and injury severity (matches missed; rate ratio [RR]) were assessed using a series of multilevel univariate and multivariate hierarchical linear models.
A total of 177 injuries were recorded with 494 matches missed (2.8 ± 3.3 matches/injury). The majority (87%) of injuries affected the lower body, with hamstring (20%) and groin/hip (14%) most prevalent. Nineteen players (28%) suffered recurrent injuries. Injury incidence was increased in players with low body mass (OR = 0.887, P = .005), with poor 6-min-run performance (OR = 0.994, P = .051), and playing as forwards (OR = 2.216, P = .036). Injury severity was increased in players with low body mass (RR = 0.892, P = .008), tall stature (RR = 1.131, P = .002), poor 6-min-run (RR = 0.990, P = .006), and slow 40-m-sprint (RR = 3.963, P = .082) performance.
The potential to modify intrinsic risk factors is greatest in the preseason period, and improvements in aerobic-running fitness and increased body mass may protect against in-season injury in elite Australian football.