AFL Statement

The AFL today released the 30th Annual AFL Injury Report following the consolidation of injury data relating to the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, which showed the overall injury incidence has remained relatively stable.

The total injury incidence (number of new injuries resulting in missed matches per club per season) was 33.6 new injuries per club in 2021 compared to 33.1 in 2020.

The three most common injuries resulting in missed matches in 2021 were hamstring strains, concussions and calf strains.

Hamstring strains remain the most common injury resulting in missed matches in the AFL with an incidence of 4.94 new injuries per club compared to 4.86 in 2020, and the most common cause of matches missed with 20 AFL matches missed per club.

Geelong's Jeremy Cameron looks on after injuring his hamstring against Essendon in R16, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The total injury recurrence rate remains low at nine per cent and has been relatively stable over the past five years.

The updated AFL & AFLW Concussion Guidelines for 2021 promoted a more conservative graded stepwise return to play approach following concussion mandating for the first time that a player suffering a concussion must miss one or more matches to accommodate the graded return to play protocol.

In following the guidelines, the earliest that a player could return to play after a concussion was 12 days, meaning that players with a concussion were required to miss at least one match (other than where no match was scheduled in the 12-day period after the concussion) and are therefore included in the incidence figures. 

Accordingly, the incidence of concussions causing matches to be missed increased to 3.68 injuries per club in the 2021 AFL season – up from 1.30 injuries per club in 2020.  

Nic Newman leaves the field during the round 18 clash between Carlton and Collingwood at the MCG on July 18, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Again, this increase is attributable to the introduction of a mandatory minimum 12-day recovery period in 2021 (which remains in place for the current 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season).

AFL Executive General Manager Football Operations, Legal & Integrity Andrew Dillon said the league would continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of all players.

"The 2021 AFL Injury Report provides information that assists clubs and researchers to continue to investigate ways of reducing injury rates, as well as improving injury management.” Mr Dillon said.

"The player's health and safety, across all levels of Australian Football, remains paramount, and will continue to invest in research and strengthen match-day protocols in order to best protect and prevent injuries amongst AFL footballers.

"Our aim is to continue to provide players with the safest possible environment in a contact sport and this data allows us to support ongoing research into injury prevention and management.

"The AFL and AFLW Concussion Guidelines are the most stringent concussion protocols in Australian sport, and we are committed to continuing to listen and learn and take action – both at the elite and community level – when dealing with concussion.

"On behalf of the AFL, I would like to thank the AFL doctors, physiotherapists and the clubs for their continued support and involvement in providing data for the 2021 Injury Report.”

The 2021 AFL injury Report results has been presented to the AFL Doctors and Physiotherapists Associations, along with all clubs.

Please note: Due to the compromised state league fixture in some states during the COVID-19 pandemic, scaled incidence data was deemed to be the only relevant comparator to previous seasons. As a result, all injury prevalence data has been omitted from the 2021 AFL Injury Report. All incidence data contained in the 2021 AFL injury Report reflects the average number of injuries per club scaled to a list size of 40 players over a season of 22 matches.