FootyFirst: 5 Questions with Dr. Alexander Donaldson

Dr Alexander Donaldson

Dr. Alexander Donaldson, lead author of new research in CJSM

One of the studies in our May CJSM issue that has already made a big splash is injury prevention work coming to us from researchers in Australia:  “Bridging the Gap Between Content and Context: Establishing Expert Consensus on the Content of an Exercise Training Program to Prevent Lower-Limb Injuries.”  This is work looking at prevention of some very common injuries seen in Australian Rules Football, or “Footy.”

As an American who has yet to visit Australia (for shame!), I have only a dim appreciation of the sport.  I have previously written about Footy in a blog post and I read eagerly the occasional article on the sport that make it into the U.S. press; the New York Times, for instance, had a recent article on the search for American talent that may cross-over to Australian rules football.  Who knew that basketball players may make great ruckmen?  Well, plenty of Australians apparently!!!!

The Twitter chatter about the study has been substantial, and it has hit the mainstream press as well.   Our Editor-in-Chief Chris Hughes has made it one of the ‘Editor’s Picks’ this month–it is freely available for a short time.  And now we have the pleasure of having the lead author, Dr. Alexander Donaldson, join us for “5 Questions with CJSM” to talk about Footy and FootyFirst, the exercise intervention which is the subject of the study.


1) CJSM:  Asking as an ignorant American:  What are some of the significant differences between Australian football and American gridiron football?  Or for that matter, between Australian football and rugby, a sport with which I do have some familiarity?

AD:  Where do I start to answer this question? Firstly, unlike American gridiron football or rugby, Australian football does actually involve a lot of kicking a ball to gain ground rather than throwing or running with the ball. In fact, to score a goal in Australian football the ball has to be kicked between the goal post, not caught in or carried into an end zone. Another key difference is that unlike any other form of football, Australian football does not have ‘line of play’ or any sort of off-side rule. It is more like basketball or ice hockey in that players can position themselves anywhere on the field at any time and can enter a contest for the ball from any angle or direction. Like American football and rugby, Australian football is a full contact collision sport However, the only protective equipment commonly worn by Australian football players is a mouth guard to prevent dental injuries – no shoulder pads, and only the occasional soft-shell helmet and body padding, usually only worn to protect an existing injury. At the elite level there are some similarities between the way the American football and Australian football are administered with both having a salary cap and a draft system to embed a certain degree of equalization of the competition over time.

2) CJSM:  What is “FootyFirst”? At the risk of conflating two dissimilar interventions:  how may it resemble (or differ from) the FIFA 11+ warmups that have been used in football (soccer)?  As an injury prevention intervention—how much time is required to perform FootyFirst for the teams adopting the program?

AD:  A very good question. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: