Should Women's Sports Be Modified To Prevent Injury?

Mick Malthouse's comments at a footy event where he called AFL a "man's game" prompted AFLW star Moana Hope walk out of the room.

Malthouse defended his comments on ABC Radio Melbourne on Friday where he said, "I'd rather see them with a smaller ball. I'd rather see it without tackling. I'd rather see it without any heavy bumping."

Hope responded in a post to Instagram where she expressed how "embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated and disgusted" she was by the comments.

The fact remains that men and women are physiologically different, so did Malthouse have a point?

READ MORE: Moana Hope Walks Out Of Event After Mick Malthouse AFLW Comments

Men And Women Are Different And So Is The Way They Play Sport

Jacqualyn Bresnahan is a physiotherapist and plays AFL for Southern Power Football Club. Bresnahan told ten daily that women playing AFL against other women will mean the game takes a different form than men playing AFL against men.

"Even when girls tackle they aren’t tackling men, they are tackling someone with the same physical make up as them," she said.

Women train to play women's footy and prevent injuries they are prone to. Image: Getty Images

She said training drills differ between the men's and the women's teams so they are able to train according to the way they play AFL respectively.

"We do a lot of conditioning and prehab drills throughout the year -- which is like preventative rehab -- like strengthening to strengthen up the areas we know are prone to injuries like calves and glutes," she said.

"Our drills are smaller, we just can’t kick as far or run as far [as the men]. Our drills are modified to how our game is played."

ATHLETES Need To Be PREPARED, Sports Don't Need to be changed

Men and women are prone to different types of injuries. Women, for example, are four-to-six times more likely to sustain an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury than men.

Samsung Diamonds team physiotherapist and member of the Australian Physiotherapist Association Alanna Antcliff told ten daily sports bodies should focus on preparing athletes to play their game, rather than changing the sport around the players.

"I think by modifying the rules you don’t get to the heart of the problem," Antcliff said. 

"You need to look at how well athletes are prepared, how robust they are to withstand the physicality of the game and if their loading [their training] is the right amount." 

Most ACL injuries in netball come from landing and changing directions. Image: Getty Images.

While women are more prone to problems like ACL injuries, the overwhelming majority of these occur in non-contact situations.

"The main offenders in Netball injuries are lower limb injuries particularly to the ankles and knees. One such injury -- ACL injuries predominantly occur without contact," Antcliff told ten daily.

"So it’s more about how you land and change direction -- changing a rule isn't going to mean you don’t have to land and change direction, so the injury risk will still be there."

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Antcliff said injury prevention programs are essential in building athlete resistance to injury. There are a number of these already available in sports including FIFA 11 for football, Footy First for AFL, P2P for rugby and the Knee Program which Antcliff developed for netball herself.

The challenge now, she said, is getting athletes to engage with these programs.

Sport Modification 'Must Be Based On Evidence Not Opinion'

Sports should only be modified to prevent injury when there is evidence the change will protect the welfare of players according to Associate Head of Research at the University of Tasmania's School of Health James Fell.

Sports should only be modified when there is evidence the player's wellbeing will be improved. Image: Getty Images.

"From the exercise physiologists perspective, we need to ensure that the athletes are suitable and appropriately conditioned and prepared to reduce the risk of injury," Fell said. 

READ MORE: What Are Your Legal Rights If Your Child Is Hurt Playing Sport?

He said women are more susceptible to ACL injuries due to the biomechanics of their hips and knees. He also said women's AFL and NRL leagues, as well as Netball officials, are looking into how sports and training methods ensure players aren't at unnecessary risk.

"The AFL [for example] have been modifying their rules for a long time and the majority of changes have been for player wellbeing -- yes of course you would modify a sport if the evidence is strong enough to modify the risks of injury," he said.

"Changes must be based on evidence not opinion."

Feature Image: Getty Images. 

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au