Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

Rob’s Blog

In a recent development, the Australian Football League (AFL) has made the decision to remove skinfold testing from the annual combine test battery. This move was driven by concerns regarding mental health and body image issues among the players. While this decision has sparked controversy, it opens up new possibilities for a more holistic approach to player assessment.

The Importance of Skinfold Testing

The skinfold test is a widely used body composition assessment employed in football combines around the world, including the AFL Draft Combine for over two decades. It plays a significant role in evaluating a player’s overall fitness by measuring body fat percentage at multiple sites on the body. This information is crucial as it helps determine the player’s ability to jump, move freely on the ground, and manage fatigue—factors that directly affect their performance in the game.

Addressing Concerns

The AFL’s decision to remove skinfold testing has faced criticism from both players and club officials. The concerns primarily revolve around the potential for body-shaming based on test results. However, it is important to recognize that the issue lies not with the test itself, but rather with how the results are presented and communicated to the players.

Rather than abandoning the test altogether, it would be more beneficial to reframe the way skinfold test results are discussed. By educating players about the purpose and benefits of measuring skinfolds, teams can foster a more positive outlook. This includes highlighting how this assessment can enhance a player’s physical performance, leading to improved team performance overall.

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A Chance for Improvement

It is crucial to view skinfold testing as one component among many in overall fitness assessment. Just like any other test, it provides an opportunity for players to identify areas they can improve upon to become better athletes. For instance, if a player’s 2km time trial is slow, additional training on the track may be required. Similarly, if their vertical jump score is low, additional leg exercises in the gym can help. And if they are carrying excess body fat, guidance from a sports dietitian can assist in making dietary changes. The ultimate goal of these assessments is to help players grow and improve, not to shame them.

Moving Forward

While the removal of skinfold testing from the combine tests list may seem definitive, it does not render the assessment irrelevant. Clubs can explore alternative methods to estimate body fat in potential draft picks, such as calculating BMI based on height and weight measurements. However, it is important to note that BMI is not an accurate measure of body fat in muscular individuals like football players. Therefore, if clubs recognize the value of skinfold testing, they may choose to continue using it as part of their assessments within the club, even if it is not available during the player recruitment process.


Q: Why was skinfold testing removed from the AFL combine?
A: Skinfold testing was removed due to concerns about mental health and body image issues among players.

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Q: Can skinfold testing be beneficial for players?
A: Yes, skinfold testing provides valuable information about body composition, helping players identify areas of improvement and enhance their physical performance.

Q: How can skinfold testing be reframed positively?
A: Skinfold testing can be presented as an opportunity for players to grow and improve rather than a means of body-shaming.


The decision to remove skinfold testing from the AFL combine may have sparked controversy, but it opens up new possibilities for a more positive and holistic approach to player assessment. By reframing the way results are presented, skinfold testing can become a valuable tool for players to improve their performance and contribute to the success of their teams.