In recent reports, Australian football has outranked other team sports in the frequency of hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) presentations. Understanding the profile of these and other “medical-attention” injuries is vital for developing preventive strategies that can reduce health costs. The objective of this review was to describe the frequency and profile of Australian football injuries presenting for medical attention.
A systematic search was carried out to identify peer-reviewed articles and reports presenting original data about Australian football injuries from treatment sources (hospitals, EDs, and health-care clinics). Data extracted included injury frequency and rate, body region, and nature and mechanism of injury.
Following literature search and review, 12 publications were included. In most studies, Australian football contributed the greatest number of injuries out of any sport or recreation activity. Hospitals and EDs reported a higher proportion of upper limb than lower limb injuries, whereas the opposite was true for sports medicine clinics. In hospitals, fractures and dislocations were most prevalent out of all injuries. In EDs and clinics, sprains/strains were most common in adults and superficial injuries were predominant in children. Most injuries resulted from contact with other players or falling.
The upper limb was the most commonly injured body region for Australian football presentations to hospitals and EDs. Strategies to prevent upper limb injuries could reduce associated public health costs. However, to understand the full extent of the injury problem in football, treatment source surveillance systems should be supplemented with other datasets, including community club-based collections.