The Brisbane Lions were dealt another injury blow in Sunday’s 82-point loss to North Melbourne, with young forward Michael Close suffering a season-ending knee injury.
This is yet another hit for the Lions’ already depleted forward line, but the more alarming takeaway from Close’s injury is that it may have been entirely preventable.
Close went up for a regulation marking contest near the boundary line, something which he would’ve done thousands of times, but instead of landing safely his left leg awkwardly slipped out from under him.
Scans on Monday confirmed the 20-year-old had ruptured his ACL.
Normally this would be classified as a freak accident, but it seems the AstroTurf around Etihad Stadium could be to blame.
Former Lions captain Jonathan Brown raised the question on Monday night of whether having AstroTurf so close to the playing field is a health and safety issue.
It’s a question which needs to be answered by the AFL: why do grounds have synthetic surfaces so close to the field of play?
Football boots are not designed to work on surfaces other than grass, so why do most grounds have a synthetic surface around the outside, when players will be regularly sprinting less than a metre away in some passages of play?
It’s incredibly fortunate we haven’t yet seen a player chasing a loose ball near the boundary line, lose their footing and go sliding into the fence.
Lions chief executive Greg Swann confirmed on Monday that they had spoken to the AFL “just to put it on the record”, but didn’t seem overly concerned one of his young players has now lost a year of his career thanks to something seemingly preventable.
“The kid is alright. He will do the year and come back, but say he didn’t get back – then you’d have an issue,” Swann said
The Lions and Close shouldn’t wait to find out he’s unable to return before they become furious over this issue. They should be furious now.
Two rounds into the home-and-away season there have already been eight season-ending knee injuries. One preventable knee injury like Michael Close’s is too many, so unless the AFL have a legitimate reason why AstroTurf surrounds its grounds, it must be removed.