We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the unique challenges sportswomen face when it comes to managing their bodies in the context of sporting environments. High ACL injury rates have been a topic of conversation, but the issue is far deeper and more complex than the simple statement that women’s bodies aren’t up to the task of playing footy.
On Kick Like A Girl this week, host Kate O’Halloran discussed these issues in relation to AFLW players in particular, with experts Mel Haberfield (North Melbourne AFLW physiotherapist), Alison Harding (pelvic floor physiotherapist and clinical pilates instructor) and Brooke Patterson (Melbourne AFLW development coach, ex-AFLW player and PhD candidate) weighing in on the topic.
We know that one in 10 women will experience endometriosis specifically at some point during their life. We’re talking about greater than 830,000 people so definitely worth talking about and that doesn’t exclude the elite sporting population.Alison Harding
The first big step for medical teams at elite sport organisations is to create a space where women feel comfortable to report their pelvic and menstrual symptoms so the club itself can manage training loads and understand players better.
We just wanted to open the conversation. With our athletes because they’re humans, and they’re women, and we wanted to treat them as a whole person and make it something that they felt comfortable to report to the medical team.Mel Haberfield
Limitations created by the part-time nature of the AFLW league also throw up some problems when it comes to injury. Club physios have less time to manage injury and run their athletes through activation exercises in an effort to minimise risk of injury, and this is a crucial factor that must be considered when discussing injury in women’s footy. Not only are the players part-time and fitting a training schedule around their full time work commitments, but so are their physios.
We’re expected to be behaving like fully elite programmes and it’s important to remind everyone that it’s semi-elite at this stage, and we only have so much capacity.Mel Haberfield
ACL injury has been the biggest talking point around women’s bodies in footy, and very few detractors seem willing or able to view these injuries with full context. There are many factors contributing to this issue and must be explored as a whole and not as individual parts.
It’s the shoe itself and it’s also the surface or the grass, and the interface between those two…and looking at the timing of the season in terms of the chronic conditions in summer here in Australia.Brooke Patterson