THE AFL has looked to the research of a Tasmanian sport scientist as it works to avoid mass injuries with the return to competition post lockdown.
Former Hobartian now based in Berlin, Dr Joel Mason conducted an analysis of German Football League Bundesliga’s return to competition in May after its 66 day hiatus and found injuries were now significantly more likely.
The Bundesliga was the first of Europe’s top football leagues to resume after being postponed due to coronavirus.
Dr Mason said it provided an “interesting” case study as competitions around the world recommenced having seen a “large spike” in injuries at training and in the first games back.
“Some teams are faring worse than others, and early indications suggest the same story in the AFL with the training injuries being reported so far,” Dr Mason said.
“A lot of it comes down to how they managed their training workloads during and immediately after the lockdown situation.”
Players have maintained general fitness easily enough during lockdown, but Dr Mason said running and home gyms were no substitute for their typical training regiment.
“Players had less access to sport-specific movements like accelerations, decelerations, change of direction and specific strength.
“All of these elements need to be appropriately amassed through training, and when players suddenly stop doing them for a while, they’re in danger when they return.”
Dr Mason crunched the numbers and found injury rates in the Bundesliga rose 226 per cent per game from 0.27 pre lockdown to 0.88 post.
His findings and recommendations caught the attention of the AFL and professional sports teams internationally.
He recommended the AFL should not rule out changes to interchange or player list dynamics that would lessen the burden on players – “especially considering injuries in AFL are already inherently higher than they are in world football”.
He also said the AFL should “avoid cramming the fixture together later in the season just to come good on their commitment to provide a certain number of games”.
“Game congestion is a recipe for poor performance and increased injury risk, and no fan wants to see that,” Dr Mason said.
Dr Mason was a former New Town High School and Elizabeth College student and seven-time Tasmanian high jump champion influenced by his father and legendary Tasmanian sprint coach, Wayne Mason.
He now works at Jena’s Institute of Sport Science in Berlin as a sport scientist and lecturer and his Bundesliga analysis has led to him consulting for professional teams across Europe, helping them to manage their return to play training process.