‘Absolutely devastated for Izzy’: Huntington and Davey both tear ACLs
Popular Western Bulldogs star Isabel Huntington has suffered a third ACL tear and will miss the rest of the 2022 AFLW season, as will Collingwood co-captain Brianna Davey.
Scans confirmed the worst for both players, also revealing Huntington, 22, had damaged her lateral meniscus after leading for the football and attempting to gather a ground ball in her side’s season-opening loss to Melbourne on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have confirmed Isabel Huntington ruptured an ACL graft in her side’s season opener.Credit:Getty Images
“We are absolutely devastated for Izzy – she is a much-loved figure at the kennel, and everyone is well aware of her injury battles, so we’re just heartbroken for her,” general manager of women’s football, Debbie Lee, said.
“She worked extremely hard this pre-season to get herself ready for this year, so it’s a real shame her 2022 campaign has been cut short.
“Izzy is a true professional though, and having been through this twice before she will know what’s required of her.
“As a club, we’ll continue to support her and the family in any way we can.”
Collingwood later confirmed on Monday that scans revealed ACL and medial ligament tears for Davey, suffered in the fourth quarter of her side’s win over Carlton on Sunday.
“We are all heartbroken for Bri,” Collingwood’s head of women’s football, Jess Burger, said.
“It’s very hard to see our captain go down with such a cruel injury, let alone someone who is at the top of their game. There is no doubt her injury has been felt not just within our team, but across the entire AFLW community.
“Bri is an incredibly strong, hard-working athlete, she is fiercely determined and cares deeply for her teammates. These attributes will give her great confidence to overcome the upcoming challenge she faces.
“She’s recovered from this injury before and knows what it takes to get herself back to being regarded as one of the competition’s best.”
Huntington has undergone two knee reconstructions and also overcome a broken leg in her short career to date. She spoke to The Age last year as part of a broad discussion around injuries in women’s football.
“At the crux of the issue is the fact we’re part-time athletes,” Huntington, who is a research assistant with the University of Melbourne and has a Bachelor of Science in human structure and function, said last year.
“If we were full-time and had the same amount of time to spend on our bodies and injury prevention [as the men] … then I think it would be a very different story.
“Injuries are an unfortunate reality of any sport at any level, regardless of gender or age group, and we need to figure out how to prevent them rather than deter them from playing sport.”
The Bulldogs’ Isabel Huntington suffered another knee injury.Credit:Getty Images
Former AFLW player Dr Brooke Patterson, who is leading a research program into women’s football injuries, said Huntington’s latest injury was a tragic way to start the 2022 AFLW season.
Brisbane’s Kate Lutkins is also awaiting the results of scans after suffering a suspected ACL tear in the season-opening round.
“It’s obviously still a significant problem for any female athlete playing football sport,” Dr Patterson said.
“If someone had the magic answer, they’d be pretty rich.
“There’s a pretty clear pattern every year that there’s a flurry at the start of the season as well. I think that’s probably related to the high intensity of the game early in the season. You don’t have fatigue as a factor, so they’re running at those higher speeds.”
Players under 25 who have previously suffered an ACL tear are 30 per cent more likely to rupture their ACL again in the first two years, according to Dr Patterson.
She said there has also been a change in the way AFLW players were rupturing their knee ligaments.
“The mechanism seems to become more consistent in how the injury is happening,” she said.
“The first couple of years there were a couple of those landing awkwardly from aerial contests, but it seems to be more and more that high-speed approach to a contest, like running out on the wing and chasing a player or a ball and that deceleration.
“Sometimes it’s not even a large change in direction, either.”
Dr Patterson said there needs to be a large coordinated effort across the AFLW competition to discuss and further invest in research into knee injuries.
“It would be great to get all the coaches, medical and high-performance staff across the AFLW in the same room and share ideas about what they’re doing considering the injury mechanism, and how we can better recreate those situations in training,” she said.
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