Isabel Huntington grabs her knee after suffering the injury. Picture: Getty
Isabel Huntington grabs her knee after suffering the injury. Picture: Getty

Women ‘five times more likely’ to tear ACL: Doctor

LEADING sports doctor Peter Brukner has confirmed women are more susceptible to serious knee injuries after two AFLW stars suffered likely season-ending injuries this weekend.

Scans on Saturday confirmed Carlton captain Bri Davey tore her ACL against GWS on Friday night, while the Bulldogs are fearing the worst for No.1 draft pick Isabel Huntington after she suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury on Sunday against Brisbane.

Davey and Huntington are the second and third players to suffer ACL tears in the opening two rounds of the second AFLW season, after Bulldog Daria Bannister suffered the injury in Round 1.

Brukner, who has served as the doctor for the Australian cricket team, revealed there are a number of reasons why women are more at risk to ACL tears than men, including mechanics and the strength of quad and hamstring muscles.

"The figures are something like five times more likely to tear their (anterior) cruciate than their male counterparts with equivalent activity," Dr Brukner said.

"There are a number of reasons for it but the main reason is just mechanics in that females have a wider pelvis and therefore are more bow-legged - there is more of an inclination for their knees to fall in when they twist, so that makes them more susceptible to tearing an anterior cruciate.

"That's pretty well recognised the world over. There's been a lot of research that's come out of female handball players in Scandinavian countries and female soccer players in the US.

Carlton captain Bri Davey was stretchered from the field on Friday night.
Carlton captain Bri Davey was stretchered from the field on Friday night.

"They are certainly more susceptible to these nasty anterior cruciate injuries.

"As a result women's sporting teams now put a lot of emphasis on prevention programs and we know there are certain things that they can do, various exercises and various techniques on landing that female athletes can do that reduce the prospect of their cruciate.

"I'm sure all the AFLW clubs are doing that but nonetheless they're still vulnerable."

If scans confirm the worst-case scenario for Huntington, it will be her second ACL tear in three years.

Last year there was also a spate of ACL tears, which prompted AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan to voice his concern.

For most AFLW players the gruelling pre-season training programs they have undertaken ahead of the first and second seasons is the most intense training of their football careers.

The increase in training load, Brukner said, is also a factor for the spate of ACL tears but there are ways to decrease the risk.

"That's pretty clear that any sort of sudden increases in load that makes people very susceptible (to injury)," he said.

"A lot of them are coming off other sports or haven't had the intensity of training and playing in the AFL.

Daria Bannister tore her ACLE in Round 1. Picture: Getty
Daria Bannister tore her ACLE in Round 1. Picture: Getty

"But it's not surprising in the first couple of seasons that the sudden jump in the amount of stress they're putting on their bodies and amount of load they're putting through their bodies lead to increase in injuries.

"I think over the next couple of years that will sort of settle down as they have a more gradual increase in their load.

"It's something that they really need to focus on and work on and maybe need to increase the amount of prevention work they're doing."

Brukner also believes playing on harder grounds is a contributing factor, both in men's and women's football.

"Always in the men's AFL there's been more ACL ruptures in pre-season and the early part of the season and that's thought to be partly due to the harder grounds and partly due to the load they put on (in training) and the fatigue in pre-season," he said.

"It's pretty well established that the harder grounds make you more susceptible to doing an anterior cruciate injury.


"It's a combination of factors at this time of the year for the women."

McLachlan last year believed a "second year of conditioning" would see a reduction in serious knee injuries in AFLW.

"It is (a concern), but I think the context is the step up and the short period of conditioning to do that," he said.

"The incidence of knee injuries for men is significantly higher at the start of the season because it's the fastest they've come in and they're the fittest and freshest.

"I think that it will be mitigated when the women have a second year of conditioning and are better able to deal with it."