A south-west specialist emergency physician says he has seen an increase in footballers and netballers coming to hospitals across the region in the opening half of the season.
Director of the Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine at Deakin University Warrnambool Doctor Tim Baker said in the 12 years he has spent in Warrnambool the beginning of the 2021 season has been one of the busiest.
"To me it does seem there is a lot of football injuries this season," he said.
"Lots of shoulders, concussions and wrist fractures in the last few weeks.
"I haven't looked closely at it but over the 30 years I have been doing this it seems to happen at the start of the year when people are building up match fitness and getting used to playing again and in finals when everyone is really determined to win."
Dr Baker said presentations were significantly down in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of south-west leagues.
He said less preparation and players trying harder after a year off could have caused the increase in injuries. He added presentations were starting to return to normal.
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The Standard has reported 79 injuries so far in the first half of the season.
The Warrnambool and District league has had 36 across the opening seven rounds with its highest tally of 11 coming in round five.
In the Hampden league there has been 43 with the most (12) occurring in round one.
On the netball court The Standard has reported three achilles injuries and three ankle injuries.
Amanda Douglas (Hamilton Kangaroos), Ally Feely (Port Fairy) and Stacy Dunkley (Panmure) have had their seasons ended by achilles injuries.
The most common injuries on the football field so far this season is hamstring (14), knee (12), ankle (10) and concussion (nine).
Seven senior players have been transported to hospital via ambulance.
Rhi Davis (Terang Mortlake), Tyler Mungean, Lara Bellman (Allansford), Jason Rowan (Warrnambool), Miles Picken (South Rovers), Will Lord (Camperdown) and Jarrod Korewha (Koroit) were all taken to hospital this season.
Davis' was due to a reoccurrence of symptoms for a snake bite, Mungean and Picken for heavy concussions, Bellman and Lord broken wrists, Korewha a dislocated elbow and Rowan a significant shoulder injury.
There's also been some significant injuries like Nick Bourke (Kolora-Noorat), who was attended at the ground by Community Emergency Response Team (CERTs).
Merrivale coach Josh Sobey told The Standard after his side's round five loss to Panmure that the year off had a big impact injury-wise on his side.
Sobey said many teams had injuries following the year-long break.
"I think every team, if you speak to anyone at the moment - COIVD has had a huge impact injury-wise and they seem to be long-term," he said at the time.
A week later he said his side was losing at least two players a week in the seniors to injury.
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South West Sports Trainers Association president Allan Parsons believes refreshed and eager players could have contributed to a rise in injuries.
"Players are more fresh because they've had 12 months off and a lot of players have missed footy and couldn't wait to get into it again," he said.
"That might have something to do with it. Players are overly keen to get back into the season and going in that little bit harder and trying a lot harder at training."
Victorian Institute of Sport lead physiotherapist Steve Hawkins said the pandemic could indirectly have an link to some of the injuries.
"During COVID athletes were unable to train to the same extent they would and their physical preparation for their sports wasn't at the standard it normally would be," he said.
Coming into competition it leaves them slightly underdone from a preparation point of view and we know, with lots of evidence, that a lack of physical preparation and a decrease in activity is absolutely one of the most significant risk factors for injuries.Steve Hawkins
Hawkins, who spearheads the physiotherapy and soft tissue therapy team at the VIS, said a lack or decrease in physical preparation magnifies the risk of intrinsic (derived directly from something the athlete has done) injuries.
Hamstrings, calves, ankles, knees and quads are classified as intrinsic. Concussions, broken bones and corkies are examples of extrinsic (unable to control or prevent) injuries.
The head physiotherapist for the Melbourne Vixens and Australian Diamonds said there is programs created by the AFL and Netball Victoria to help decrease the risk of intrinsic injuries.
"They help to improve athletes ability to absorb forces with jumping, landing, rapid direction change and accelerations that make up sports," he said.
"This is part of what we know (about injury risk management) and making sure athletes are prepared to play."
Hawkins suggested the AFL's prep-to-play and Netball Australia's KNEE program, which has seen a decline in the prevalence of knee injuries at the elite level, because of their simple and straight forward formats.
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