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.
Gastin and Huntsman are (and Cook was) with the Centre for Exercise and Sport Science, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia. Meyer is with the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, VIC, Australia. Cook is currently with the Dept of Physiotherapy, Monash University–Peninsula Campus, Australia.