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Players' beliefs are a barrier to preventing injury in junior Australian football

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A n effective strategy for preventing injuries in junior Australian football needs to tackle how players perceive injury affects their playing prospects, according to a survey of top junior players aged 16–18 years.

The questionnaire was completed by junior players in six football league under 18 clubs in Victoria and explored their own attitudes to injury and their perceived attitudes to injury and safety within their league club, their local club, and their school.

Only 6% of 103 juniors responding believed it was safe to play with an injury, and nearly 70% recognised the long tern dangers and need for full rehabilitation before returning to play. Nevertheless, 58% were willing to do so, 77% to ensure consideration for a team in the league. About half thought that the media glorified league players who continued to play despite injury, and an appreciable proportion admired them.

Perceptions of support for injured players at the three team levels were significantly different. The league under 18 clubs were thought to be better than local or school clubs in overall support and providing first aid, medical support, and rehabilitation. However, local clubs outperformed the others in support from the coach. Significantly more players ranked the league clubs higher in safety during the game (90%) and in training (85%).

Australian football accounts for more than 20% of sports injuries requiring medical treatment in Australia. The players in football league under 18 clubs have a significantly higher incidence of injuries than football league players, who are over 18.

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