AFLW Researching Potential Link Between Menstrual Cycles And ACL Injuries

AFLW Researching Potential Link Between Menstrual Cycles And Injury

Melbourne Football Club’s Ainslie Kemp is now the eighth AFLW player to suffer an ACL injury – the tear or sprain of a major ligament in the knee – since the start of pre-season in November, with four players sidelined after being felled last season.  The Herald Sun reports that the league is working with […]

Melbourne Football Club’s Ainslie Kemp is now the eighth AFLW player to suffer an ACL injury – the tear or sprain of a major ligament in the knee – since the start of pre-season in November, with four players sidelined after being felled last season. 

The Herald Sun reports that the league is working with AFL Players’ Association and La Trobe University to look into a potential link between periods and these prevalent injuries.

“We are keen to explore this further,” AFL women’s football chief Nicole Livingstone says.

Kay Crossley – a La Trobe University professor, physiotherapist and researcher specialising in knee injuries – says they’re hoping to do more research on the issue soon. 

“There is a suspicion that female hormones may be related to injury and possibly to how women respond to training, but a lot more work needs to be done in that space,” she told the Herald Sun. 

RELATED: Why Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle Can Change Your Life

acl injury link to menstrual cycle

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It’s an area of increasing focus, with research on the link doubling over the past decade. A 2017 systematic review and meta analysis published in Orthopaedic Journal Of Sports Medicine found an association between hormonal fluctuations and ACL injuries. Research published in the Journal of Athletic Training found women have a higher risk of ACL tear during the pre-ovulatory phase of their menstrual cycle than the post-ovulatory phase of their cycle. 

Some studies have also suggested oral contraceptives can offer a 20 per cent reduction in risk.

Chelsea Women recently became the first football club in the world to tailor training programs to their players’ menstrual cycles in a ground breaking initiative to enhance performance and cut down on injuries.

“It is fair to say, I am a female coach in an industry where women have always been treated like small men,” manager Emma Hayes told The Telegraph. “The application of anything from rehab to strength and conditioning to tactical all come from the basis of what men do.”

Hayes explained that given we go through “something very different to men on a monthly basis” it’s important to have a better understanding of its flow on effects. The idea came about after the team lost the 2016 FA Cup final against Arsenal.

RELATEDThe Best Type Of Exercise For Every Stage Of Your Menstrual Cycle

chelsea womens

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“We had a lot of players in and around their period for that game,” she said. “I remember watching players close the ball down and thinking everything was reactive and second-best. That was the starting point.”

The team – which includes Australian soccer star Sam Kerr – uses the FitWoman app, created by physiologist and international cross-country runner Dr Georgie Bruinvels, to record and monitor their cycle and related symptoms. This information is used to adjust nutrition and training depending around the phases of their cycle, particularly in regards to injury.

“The menstrual cycle is an inflammatory process and excess inflammation can result in an injury,” Bruinvels says. “It’s not solely down to high levels of oestrogen, but tracking the cycle is also very important in terms of bone-injury risk.”

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