Aussie Rules Football
November 20, 2013
I was planning on writing this post as soon as the November CJSM was published. One of this journal’s valued, affiliated societies is the Australasian College of Sports Physicians. I began the month looking at New Zealand’s beloved rugby, I thought it time to look at the different football code played in Australia.
Little did I know I would be communicating so much with Australian readers before I even wrote directly about one of their beloved sports. The posts I wrote on November 12, 14 and 16, all dealing with a recent Canadian statement on bicycle helmet policy in their country, stirred up a huge response from antipodean friends where mandatory helmet legislation (MHL) has been around since the early 90’s. If you visit this blog and have yet to experience the ‘thunder from down under’ about MHL, please check those posts and the associated comments. There is still time to take the polls exploring the matter of MHL, and if you want to comment on MHL, write a letter to the editor, as the journal articles’ authors would want to hear from you.
There is another gem in the November issue besides the bicycle helmet entries, and this too has to do with injury prevention, but in the sport of Australian Rules Football: “Priorities for Investment in Injury Prevention in Community Australian Football,” by Dr. Caroline Finch et al. I have recently written a blog post about the different football codes from around the world and so I was primed to read about a type of football about which I know so little. In fact, most of what I do know about Aussie Rules comes from my familiarity with Brad Wing, the Melburnian who rocked the American football world with his punting prowess when playing for Louisiana State a couple of seasons ago.
Dr. Finch herself I can’t, in truth, say I know; but because of the magic of social media, I have learned a lot by following her on Twitter. A Professor from the University of Ballarat in Australia, Dr. Finch is well published in the world of injury prevention. And so it was with genuine interest in her and in Aussie rules football (AF) that I turned my attention to this study.
Dr. Finch’s team performed a systematic search to identify peer-reviewed, original research articles describing injuries in community AF published before 2012. The team identified 17 such articles, and then further narrowed their scope to a remaining 6 which contained details on the nature of injury and the body region injured. The team further incorporated unpublished community AF data from the “Preventing Australian Football Injuries through eXercise (PAFIX) study.”
The study put together some impressive numbers, drawing on ‘…injury data describing 1765 injuries in 2265 adult players and 1202 injuries in over 1950 junior players.’ The team found that most injuries occurred in the lower limb. Relatively minor injuries (bruises, lacerations, sprains/strains) comprised most of the injuries seen in the lower limb. One of the studies referenced by the team found that intracranial injury/concussions represented 15% of the injuries seen in adult AF, an impressive incidence.
As a sports medicine physician and public health practitioner with no direct experience of AF, what I particularly enjoyed about the article was its exploration of some of the broader issues involved in doing such research. Note is made, for instance, of the limitations imposed on such studies by the data collection itself. Frequently, non-medically trained personnel are involved in such epidemiologic data collection, and the limits of their medical knowledge translate to limits in terms of how adequately an injury type or body part can be described. Here in the States, the on-going study I am most familiar with, the Reporting Information Online (RIO) high school injury surveillance, uses certified athletic trainers in its data collection, which is a boon to authors accessing it.
Another broader issue described by the researchers is the need to have a more consistent usage of injury definition when applied to community AF. The authors call for ongoing revision of the ‘Australian Sports Injury Data Dictionary’ to assist collectors of injury epidemiology in the field. It’s a problem, needless to say, if what you call the leg is the entire lower extremity and what I call the leg is what anatomists call it (the area between from the knee to the ankle). Misclassification of data is a bug in the code of injury surveillance, so to speak.
Finally, Dr. Finch invokes Haddon’s first principles and hierarchy of injury control, something I alluded to myself in the context of bicycle injury prevention in those recent posts I was previously mentioning. I enjoyed reading her discussion of how Haddon’s matrix points to potential areas of focus in injury prevention in community AF.
As I wrap this post, I wanted to share one final observation. I suppose there are few degrees of separation in the world of sports medicine, as there are with Kevin Bacon; and so I should not have beeen surprised to discover that well before I had written a piece on bike safety, Dr. Finch herself had in her own previous blog post. It is very well written, and I recommend it to you, as I would the blog posts and journal articles we have provided here at CJSM.
All the best.