The 2008/2009 PFA Injury Report suggests injury management is a central factor in the on-field success of A-League clubs, and an ongoing issue of concern to the PFA as the A-League season is extended for 2009/2010.

The PFA recently released the 2008/09 PFA A-League Injury Report (click here). The report, now in its third year, collates and analyses available data to measure player injuries. It reveals total games lost to injury, injury type and number of injured players during a season. While luck has a role to play, the tight playing rosters of the A-League ensure there is a direct correlation between medical excellence and on-field competitiveness.

The report again shows a strong correlation between injury rates and table position.

Indeed, Sydney FC (2005/2006) and Melbourne Victory (twice) had the best record in their championship seasons while Newcastle had the second best record when winning the title (2007/2008).

Unfortunately, the total number of games missed through injury for all A-League clubs has increased over the past 2 seasons. In 2008/09, total games missed were 506 (avg. 63 per club) an increase of 24 (5%) from 482 (avg. 60) in 2007/08.
Also of concern are worsening injury rates as the season approaches its end, especially during the last 7 rounds. This will require close monitoring as the season is extended from 21 to 28 rounds for season 5. The most prevalent type of injuries are knee injuries, followed by ankle sprains/joint injuries, groin strains/osteitis pubis and hamstrings. The PFA is especially determined to ensure soft tissue injuries are minimised and well managed. Sadly, injury management in the A-League is falling behind other major sports.

The transition for injured players coming off contract is extremely difficult. At least 8 players remained injured when coming off contract at the end of the 2008/09 season, jeopardising their prospects of achieving a contract renewal or a new contract at another club.

For the continual growth and success of the competition, the health and safety of A-League players is vital. Football Federation Australia and A-League clubs have a fundamental responsibility to ensure the safety of players by providing a working environment which is free from any unreasonable risk to the health and wellbeing of players. Effective player injury prevention and management practices are essential for clubs to successfully fulfil this responsibility. If the clubs do not listen to the demands of the players, the on-field consequences will ensure they will ultimately be held to account by their fans.