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Bone Strength, Load Tolerance and Injury Risk in Elite Australian Football

Injury prevention research in Australian Football has exclusively focused attention toward soft-tissue injuries with moderate success; however hard-tissue injuries continue to rise, with lower-limb fractures currently generating the second-highest number of missed games due to injury or illness, equating to an approximate competition-wide expense of $1.5 million in lost player wages every year. Given that bone strength is directly related to injury risk and load tolerance capability in sporting populations; and is a measurable, modifiable and trainable characteristic in all athletes; the absence of attention in the literature highlights an evident inadequacy which needs addressing.

In particular, bone is a highly adaptive and structurally dynamic tissue, responsive to the routine mechanical demands placed upon it. In fact, mechanical loading initiates and regulates bone modelling and remodelling processes, with the greatest bone strength and stiffness adaptations produced in the direction by which loads are most commonly expressed. However, field-based team sports routinely produce compressive, torsional, transverse and tensile loads in combination and isolation under mild and extreme conditions. Complexity therefore arises as the ability of bone to tolerate load differs across the loading spectrum under various conditions, and therefore has different thresholds across different planes of action. Consequently, these applied loads can expose the skeleton to stimuli that can lead to positive, osteogenic (anabolic) adaptations; or in the absence of adequate conditioning, recovery and nutritional support, markedly increase the likelihood of lower limb injury. Unfortunately, investigations into bone strength for field-based team sports remain scarce, rendering the association between bone strength, adaptation, load tolerance and injury incidence unclear and without resolution.

These collective studies will therefore characterise lower-body bone strength (mass, geometry, density) in order to ascertain whether common factors exist between those susceptible to injury versus those who are injury resilient. The dose-response relationship between seasonal loading and bone strength adaptation will also be investigated.

Funding agency

Fremantle Dockers Australian Rules Football Club

Project duration

2013-2015


Researchers

Mr Nicolas Hart
Professor Rob Newton
Dr Sophia Nimphius
Mr Jason Weber

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