As a sporting country, Australians were all excited and proud of the achievements of the Matilda’s through the World Cup. As a nation we were hoping to build on the 2023 achievements as we looked forward to the Olympic Games in Paris this year.
So the news this week of an ACL injury to Tilly’s Captain Sam Kerr was devastating for supporters. Anyone with even a passing interest in sport understands the significance of an ACL injury. But with over 7 months still to go until the Olympic Football finals, many were asking if there is any chance of a miracle comeback for Sam.
In this weeks blog we ask the question – could Sam Kerr make a return to sport in time for the Olympics in July / August? And if so, should she?
At this point, it is important to note that we have no insights into the nature and status of Sam Kerr’s current injury. That is a matter for her and her medical team. But for us, looking from afar, the short answers to those questions are 1) maybe and 2) probably not.
The return to sport timeline for athletes is the perennial question. Athletes want to return to sport as soon as possible. But the factors that guide this decision are complicated. Based on the research, this is what we know about this injury and what it may mean for Sam.
Maybe…without wanting to get the nation’s hopes up
AFL fans may recall that in 2018 Collingwood defender Tyson Goldsack returned from a pre-season ACL injury to play the finals including the grand final just six months later. So, it can be done. But it is not the norm and it is not without significant risk.
For ACL injuries, in terms of time, the magic number seems to be a minimum of 9 months. We know that athletes that return to sport quicker than this are up to 7 times more likely to reinjure the ACL compared to those that delay a return to sport (1).
But it is not just a matter of time. In this previous blog CSSM Physio Kobi Phelan discusses the myriad of factors that go into planning the return to sport of an ACL rehabbing athlete… Avoiding infection, managing swelling, getting range of movement back, restoring strength to the surrounding muscles, improving balance and proprioception, managing the athletes psychological health.. It’s complicated and she only has six months!
So maybe, but…probably not
ACL rupture is a life changing injury. It has implications long after retirement from sport.
The reported incidence of posttraumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) following ACL injury is as high as 87% (3)
We know that women are up to 5 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury. Why – we don’t have a definite answer.
We also know the risk is higher in sports that involve a lot of pivoting movement such as (round ball) football.
For those that return to sport, 1 in 5 of those will suffer a subsequent ACL injury.
Poorly managed and rushed ACL rehab has implications. Sam Kerr will have access to the best in advice and resources so she has as good a chance as anyone.
Is another run at the Olympic games worth the risk? For us, the risk/reward ratio is just too much.
We wish Sam Kerr all the best for her recovery and hope to see her back on the pitch soon. Go Tillies!
About the author
CSSM Practice Principal and Senior Osteopath Travis Bateman is passionate about creating a health service that can deliver a patient-focussed approach to care, giving meaningful evidence-based treatment and management to patients.
Travis describes CSSM as an extension of his family. “I am just as passionate about our team and the community we treat as I am about few other things. Doing what we do and doing it well, is my biggest objective.”
The CSSM philosophy is to provide a level of care that exceeds the norm and ensures the best outcome for patients.
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