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Clubs winning battle against groin, OP injuries

Nick Bowen  March 7, 2013 10:15 AM

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Blues star Chris Judd battled osteitis pubis during his career

The old notion of just pulling back the load on these kids who might have issues, it's almost gone the other way now
THE FALL in groin strains and osteitis pubis cases in the AFL last season is largely due to advances clubs have made in identifying individual players' injury risks early in their careers, North Melbourne medical services director Steve Saunders says.

The AFL released its annual injury survey on Wednesday , which revealed the average number of groin strains and OP cases was 2.6 per club last season, down from 2.8 in 2011, 4.1 in 2010 and 3.2 over the past 10 years.

The average number of games missed through these injuries also fell in 2012 to 6.9 games per club, down from 7.9 in 2011 and the 2003-12 high of 17.5 in 2007.

It was also significantly down from the average over the past 10 seasons of 12.3 games.   

Saunders told AFL.com.au cutting groin injuries and OP cases had been a major focus of club medical and sports science departments in recent years.

Saunders specialised in the treatment of sports-related lumbo-pelvic injuries as a physiotherapist for more than 20 years before joining North ahead of the 2011 season.

He said accurately diagnosing the cause of groin pain was often a "complex and multi-faceted" process, but clubs had made inroads in this area and in their treatment of groin injuries and OP.

But Saunders said the programs clubs now had in place to identify individual players' predispositions to certain injuries had been just as important in reducing the number of these injuries.

"I'm sure all clubs pour a lot of time into looking for injury risk in players and making sure there's a really strong preventative program in place and a big part of that is obviously looking at that lumbo-pelvic hip area or the core area," Saunders said.

"Core strength has been talked about since the 1960s but I think now we do a little more than talk about it. We think we actually have a better understanding of what core stability is and how to measure it and how to train it."

Saunders said by identifying any strength or control imbalances in a player's lumbo-pelvic muscles, clubs could take a far more proactive approach to addressing early signs of groin problems and osteitis pubis.

Where once clubs would simply reduce an injured player's training load, Saunders said they could now map out an intensive program that increased the training loads on muscles that were weak or underused previously.

"The old notion of just pulling back the load on these kids who might have issues, it's almost gone the other way now," Saunders said.

"We're looking at smart ways we can get more load into the right areas and minimise the risk."  

Saunders said clubs' ability to identify young players' injury risks had also been bolstered by the closer relationships they had fostered recently with the medical staff at the AIS-AFL Academy and TAC Cup clubs.

The AFL injury survey acknowledged one factor in the drop in groin strains and OP cases last year had been a corresponding increase in other hip, groin and thigh injuries.

These injuries, which were sometimes misdiagnosed as groin strains or OP previously, rose to a 10-year high of 1.2 injuries per club in 2012, up from 1.0 in 2011 and 0.7 across 2003-12.

Nick Bowen is a reporter with AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nick