loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness


Hamstring Injury is on the rise again it seems in the AFL. Yet we are seeing the AFL gloat about how the rules have changed the game and made it less dangerous for contact injury and link this to the rule changes.  An article by Damian Barret quoted the decrease in high intensity running in the GPS report.

“THE AFL’S GPS data from the 2008 season has revealed a fourth consecutive increase in “playing intensity”.

Among results that delight AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson, who has introduced a raft of rule changes, the 2008 season saw players spend less time at “high-end speeds” and more time at “steady-state running speeds”.

The report quoted Adrian Anderson noting  the decrease in collision  injuries since 2004 but of course we also have had far more stringet tribunal decsions with head high contact cases for example. So one has to be a little wary of making rash conclusions with this GPS research. Also the report said that ball in play had increased over 10% since the 2001/2002 season but of course one must remember that extensive GPS use was not occuring then.

“Anderson said there were strong warnings at the end of 2004 that the game had moved too far to a stop-start style and, as a result, players were suffering serious collision injuries because when the ball was in play, they found themselves playing at a higher speed”

So why have Hamstring and Groin injuries increased?

The attention to detail in the area of soft tissue management  is pristine these days in the AFL. What this report totally misses and what GPS really struggles with is that there is a maximal instantaneous muscular effort occuring time and time agan in a game. So whilst players are fatigued due to less rest thay are still contracting at maximal effort close to the ball increasing the risk of soft tissue injury. GPS does have accelerometers that measure impact forces but again this is not measuring the maximal contraction of a fatigued muscle.

And added to this problem is the massive interchange numbers which means a fresh player comes on a totally fatigued player and adds to the need to maximally accelerate at an instantaneous moment. WHACK more injury. Fatigue causes loss of efficiency in movement apart from other problems that expose soft tissue to injury.

So whilst a player may be cruising at a slightly lower speed they still have to bend and crank 100% effort many times over and in a  more fatigued state. Just not something a GPS can measure. That is, the massive instantaneous eccentric contractions that occur at maximal intensity compounded by the fight or flight response.

So again we see the flawed use of statistics and technology. GPS was fantastic to allow sports scientists a clearer picture of game loads and variations from training to  games for example. Coupled with HR data and subjective data and linked to video one can really analyze general game loads for AFL players.

Reality  all that may have  happened is that the rule changes have changed work/rest ratios and meant that coaches have to select slightly more “aerobically” biased teams with a result that players are running around slightly more fatgued than in the past. So yes it may nicer to watch but one can see where soft tissue is strainign even more now. And also one would  have to look at the rule changes with collision injuries to judge whether that has been the main reason for less contact injuries.

It is the old story. One can use statistics to justify most scenarios. And also as in the grand final one will see a lot more euse of tactics that will again change many variables.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Little Athletics is not a good pathway for Track and Field excellence

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about problems in Track and Field. From sponsorship to simply numbers competing. There also have been suggestions that Athletics Australia does not provide a pathway for kids that do Little Athletics. So much has changed since the 60’s prior to when Little Athletic started.

We don’t have University systems such as collegiate track and field in the US. We don’t have systems with the armed services and police force such as exist in many countries. We do not have clubs aligned to big sports clubs such as in Europe. Senior clubs in Australia are a throwback to the 50’s. Funded and run by total well meaning amateurs.

So why do I think Little Athletics is flawed as a pathway for Senor Track and Field. Before I start I want to emohasise that from a physical point of view it is great that kids are running around on weekends with little athletics. But that is not the point of this article. How come thousands of kids and parents are involved in Little Athletics and these parents and kids drop out later? Is it simply Athletic Australia’s  fault. No.

From a mulitalteral development perspective Athletics is not the best pursuit for kids to do prior to puberty. It involves closed skills, unilateral loadings and winning and losing at an individual level. There is no decision making and no team interplay. Much research has shown that multilateral development is the key for prepubertal kids and also games are best pursued to develop decision making skills, aerobic fitness and speed and have fun. Sports such as swinning and gymnastics are great for strength. And so on. This stuff is all out there.

Also up till 15 or 16 there are massive differences in development and maturation so who wins one year may simply be an average senior athlete. Average age for senior athletics for excellence is always approximately 25. So if your child wins an under 11 title it may be 8/12 years before any real performances start happening. 2009 now so wait till 2016 to make a semifinal of the under 19’s in senir aths!!

Parents have a huge involvement at this age and often with great intentions ( health and fitness) but soemtimes for not so noble reasons. That is they become involved in the whole win/loss cycle.

My memories of the best talents coming through were young footballers or hockey players who turned up at the track and ran 11 5 secs for 100m with no formal training off a base of multilateral devleopment.

i will continue this discussion but simply starting Athletics too early is flawed. It is a simple sport that requires massive dedication and should be grabbing kids from other sports at 14,15,16,17 and so on.

Councils need to get behind senior clubs and now is the time to pay coaches at the many tracks to help these kids that want to do Athletics as a choice at 15 etc and not because their parents took themt o Little Aths at 10.

How ugly is it for a kid who won medals at 10/11 and 12 in athletics to be beaten at a school sports at 15 by a kid who only has played soccer. Now that kid is bound to give up and also of course any involvement of parents in athletics is over given the excitiement of seeing little johnny is over.

All food for thought eh!


February 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment