Crow’s player, Katelyn Rosenzweig immediately knew something wasn’t right as she lay on the grass of Alberton Oval in the aftermath of an aerial contest during an SANFL women’s exhibition match against Port Adelaide on July 21.
“My legs came out from underneath me somehow and I landed on my coccyx,” she said.
“I’ve gone down so many times like that before and it was just this one time it felt a whole lot different. I thought maybe I’m just a little bit winded, I went to get up and my legs were shaking and I just lost sensation in my legs and I thought I can’t do this, I can’t move… it was pretty scary.”
Given the possible outcome, it’s hard to believe the 19 year-old was still able to keep her spirits up as she was worked on by medical staff at the ground for nearly an hour before being taken by ambulance to the RAH with suspected spinal injuries.
“I remember there was a Port Adelaide player there supporting me, and she was just making jokes about how if I was in the right colours it wouldn’t have happened,” Katelyn said.
“I was trying to have a laugh, and she said the worst that can come out of it is that you’re in a wheelchair, and I said well, I hope I’m good at wheelchair basketball then. I was just trying to look on the bright side of things.”
The Tanunda teen’s humour in the face of a potential life-changing injury is testament to her grit, which has seen her the rise through the ranks and reach the elite levels of her sport.
“Growing up for me, I was just thrown a lot of bull**** from the boys,”said Katelyn.
“No one can tell you what to do with your life, it’s your choice. You were put on earth for a reason.”
For Katelyn, football is the reason. She was the number 41 draft pick for the Adelaide Crows in October 2018, and while she was de-listed due to throat surgery, she remains a formidable player in the SANFLW.
But it’s a dream that could have come unstuck two weeks ago.
Fortunately Katelyn was able to walk away with just a fractured vertebra, and will be back on the field next season, but in the past 12 months she’s also strained ligaments in her knee, “done” an ankle and broken her nose.
In a contact sport like football, the risk of injury is already high, but with the women’s competition being so new, there is still groundwork to be done in terms of injury prevention and conditioning women’s bodies in preparation for the demands of the sport.
“The AFL competition’s only been around for three years so compared to the men we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, body-wise,” said Katelyn.
“We need to strengthen up more and clubs are setting programmes to do that, but we’ve got to speed up the process I think.”
The issue is the same for all levels of the sport.
David Giles, Director of Willaston based Physioactive, a popular sports physiotherapy clinic with local athletes, said that his practice has noticed an increase in the incidence rate of injuries amongst female footballers compared to men.
“The types of injuries are similar to those which we see in men’s football however there does appear to be more joint type injuries, meaning ankle sprains, knee sprains and ligament ruptures,” said David.
“Women’s football is new, which means their bodies will have to learn to adapt to the loads and constrains which football places on their bodies.”
Adam Butcher, Chairman of the Barossa Light and Gawler Women’s Football Association said that conditioning is a “working process” that clubs and individuals are tackling as the sport progresses.
“Unfortunately where we’re at now in the Barossa league girls are only just starting to learn how to play football,” said Adam.
“I think generally as time goes by there will be less and less injuries, the more they play, the more they’ll learn.”
Despite the injury risks, women’s football is on the rise. The number of girls playing in the BLGW was up by 90 on last year.
“We’re up to 350 girls playing footy in the Barossa league,” said Adam.
“It’s on it’s way up and I think it will continue to go that way because the girls that play it really enjoy it, and they really love the game.”
Katelyn’s dedication is an example of that genuine love for the sport, and while her recent spate of injuries had her briefly second guess if she was pursuing the right career path, for her there really is no other option.
“I can’t walk away from the game I just love it too much,” she said.
“I’ll work towards next year’s draft and hopefully then it’s not one, but two SA teams that can pick me up. They’ve still got their eye on me, that’s the main thing.”
“Footy’s probably the biggest thing in my life, outside of family. The biggest thing that drives me is football.”