Josh Gibcus leaves the field on a stretcher during the match between Carlton and Richmond at the MCG on March 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WHEN is a spate of torn ACLs a serious issue, and can it simply be a case of bad luck? 

Mykelti Lefau's ruptured ACL on Saturday night marked the fifth such injury suffered by a Richmond player in the past 12 weeks.

Prior to that, only four Tigers had suffered the heartbreaking long-term injury between 2017 and 2023 – Nathan Drummond (2017), Alex Rance (2019), Ivan Soldo (2020) and Noah Cumberland (2020).

But when you drill down on the five incidents this year, it's difficult to see a pattern that would indicate a serious structural issue with Richmond's training routine.

Josh Gibcus flew high against Carlton in round one, was nudged slightly as he jumped, and landed awkwardly.

Fellow tall Lefau's incident was fairly similar – jumping for a mark, colliding with other players, and in the Kiwi's case, landing with a straight leg.

Mykelti Lefau is attended to during the round 12 match between Geelong and Richmond at GMHBA Stadium, June 1, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The three other torn ACLs were suffered in VFL games, one of which was played at the MCG.

Both Tylar Young and Sam Naismith went to change direction, their knees buckling underneath them.

Sam Naismith on the bench after suffering a knee injury during the VFL round eight match between Sandringham and Richmond, May 19, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Judson Clarke's case is a little more complicated. He injured his knee while attempting to tackle, left the field and returned with it heavily strapped. The small forward then booted a 50m set shot, slipping on his planted leg, and his day was done.

He ruptured the ACL graft, having already undergone a knee reconstruction on that same joint in his junior career.

MEDICAL ROOM Check out the full injury list

Lefau has also already torn the ACL on the opposite side of his body, while Naismith's latest blow is his fourth torn ACL.

Arguably, Young's incident is the only one that came somewhat out of the blue, given Gibcus' was a landing issue rather than the more traditional ACL-change of direction.


Brooke Patterson is a physiotherapist and researcher at La Trobe University and Exercise Science Medicine Research Centre, and played for Melbourne between 2017-2019, spending an additional two seasons with the coaching group.

"AFL men's players have seen a fairly consistent ACL injury incidence over the past two decades. If you support an AFL men's team, you can expect to see an ACL injury roughly every two or three seasons. So, if your club has had a good run and not had many for a few years, you might expect a spate of them," Patterson told

"We are seeing some clubs have a bad run at the moment, and some of these fall into players who are high risk – being young (under 25) and having had a previous injury – and some mechanisms such as landing awkwardly from a high aerial contest.

"The players do lots of plyometrics (jumping exercises) to prepare them to cope with these loads. But sometimes, nothing can prepare you for landing from the crazy heights and rides and bumps these players get up to in a game.

"Some players are better than others landing from these situations – Jeremy Howe is a good example, he tends to land balanced and on his feet a lot of the time, except for that time he landed on and broke his arm."


Speaking more broadly than just Richmond and Brisbane (the other side who has been hit hard by torn ACLs) the pace of the game has certainly increased over the past five to 10 years, and players are faster and stronger than ever.

The Lions have had a similarly straightforward run with torn ACLs up until this point, with five players (Sam Skinner, Connor McFadyen, Cam Rayner, Eric Hipwood and Will Ashcroft) suffering the injury between 2017-2023, but four this year alone.

Keidean Coleman, 24, suffered his injury in a tackle, Tom Doedee's was his third torn ACL, and while Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Gardiner haven't torn their ACLs before, both have extensive injury histories.


The pace of the game seems to have led to more forceful contests and collisions, even with the recent technical adjustments to sling tackles.

"I think the combination of the increase in speed and power of the athletes, and the game itself, means we are seeing players run faster, jump higher, and have to react more quickly," Patterson said.

"That all places greater strain on joints and increases the risk (of torn ACLs)."