The evolution of Australian football

J Sci Med Sport. 1999 Dec;2(4):389-404. doi: 10.1016/s1440-2440(99)80011-5.


Australian football has undergone considerable change over the past century. This evolution seems to have accelerated more recently since the introduction and major influence of the media, increased professionalism and the start of a national competition. In this study we have attempted to quantify the evolution in game 'style' by measuring events during elite football games (from video analysis) and gathering physical information on players involved at the highest level. These data are important to gain insight into the game demands so that player preparation may be enhanced and when predicting the nature of the game in the future. Understanding the patterns of play within the game may also be useful when assessing the possible impact of rule changes, for example, increasing the number of interchange players on the potential for injury. Four games were selected, one from each of the past 4 decades to determine the rate at which specific, measurable events occurred in the games. Height and mass data on players were also obtained from official records of registered players in the VFL/AFL competitions. The results indicate the 'speed' of the game has approximately doubled in the period 1961-1997. The proportion of the total game which involves 'play' time has been reduced significantly while breaks in play are more frequent and longer. Despite this pattern, however, the average game tempo has increased along with player height and mass and we present a case which suggests these are likely determinants of the increased incidence of player injuries and lost match time.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Soccer / injuries
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Video Recording