Demon Ainslie Kemp suffered her third ACL injury on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images
Demon Ainslie Kemp suffered her third ACL injury on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

AFL to explore menstrual cycle link to injury crisis

THE AFL is keen to explore whether the female menstrual cycle is linked to ACL injuries.

On Friday, Demon Ainslie Kemp became the eighth AFLW player to be felled by the season-ending knee injury since the beginning of this preseason in November.

Another four players are sidelined after suffering the injury last season.

While a number of physiological and biological factors are understood to contribute to a female being two to 10 times more likely to suffer the injury compared to male counterparts, the league believes there is a correlation between the female cycle and the season-ending injury.

"We are keen to explore this further," AFL women's football chief Nicole Livingstone said.

The league is working closely with the AFL Players' Association and La Trobe University in an endeavour to research any link.

La Trobe University professor Kay Crossley - a physiotherapist and researcher with a special expertise in knee injuries - said she was hoping to conduct more in depth research.

"We don't really know how much the menstrual cycle is related to injuries, and we would like to know more," she said.

"We would like to do some research in this area and are hoping to do so soon.

"We've worked with the AFL for the last few years on the Prep to Play program for elite clubs … with plans to hopefully roll that out at community level.

"There is a suspicion that female hormones may be related to injury and possibly to how women respond to training, but a lot more work needs to be done in that space."

A number of AFL clubs are also understood to be interested in the area.

Previous international research - including a project conducted at Oregon Health & Science University - has indicated that knee ligament laxity, and thus risk of ACL injury, may be increased during the ovulatory phase of the cycle.

It has also looked into the association between the oral contraceptive pill and the menstrual cycle with injury rates, and suggested that taking oral contraceptives could result in an ACL injury risk reduction of as much as 20 per cent.

The league developed injury prevention guidelines with Crossley in 2018.

They work in two parts. It suggests three 30-minute sessions per week that incorporate strength work, jumping and landing mechanisms and training drills on the best way to tackle and approach ground balls, in an attempt to reduce the risk of serious injury.

AFLW superstar Erin Phillips did her ACL in last year’s grand final. Picture: Tom Huntley
AFLW superstar Erin Phillips did her ACL in last year’s grand final. Picture: Tom Huntley

English soccer powerhouse Chelsea - home to Australian star Sam Kerr - last week became the first football club to tailor its training program around players' menstrual cycles, in an attempt to enhance performance and cut down on injuries.

Players use an app to input information with individual training programs adjusted accordingly.

The club said that research it had obtained had indicated a higher injury risk during phases one and two of the cycle, ranging from serious injuries such as ACL tears to soft-tissue injuries as hormones fluctuated.

"The menstrual cycle is an inflammatory process and excess inflammation can result in an injury," physiologist Dr Georgie Bruinvels, who has been engaged to oversee the program at Chelsea, said last week.

"It's not solely down to high levels of oestrogen, but tracking the cycle is also very important in terms of bone-injury risk."

Watch every match of the 2020 NAB AFLW Season LIVE & On-Demand on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >