Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

A New Approach to Body Assessment in the AFL Combine

In a progressive move, the Australian Football League (AFL) has made the decision to remove skinfold testing from the annual combine test battery. This decision comes in response to growing concerns about mental health and body image among players. Skinfold testing, a widely used body composition assessment, has been a part of the combine for over two decades. It is just one component of the comprehensive assessment that players undergo, which includes medical, physical, psychological, and skills testing.

Skinfold testing measures a player’s body fat percentage by pinching the skin at multiple sites on the body. This information is valuable as it helps determine whether a player is carrying excess weight that may impact their performance in terms of vertical jumping, mobility on the field, and fatigue levels during games. It also provides sports science staff with insights into how players can improve their physical performance by shedding any excess body fat.

The decision to remove skinfold testing has faced criticism from players and AFL club officials, who argue that it is an important part of player assessment. It is essential, however, to address concerns around body shaming. Rather than eliminating the test altogether, there is an opportunity to educate players about the benefits of skinfold testing, both for individual performance and overall team success. By framing the test as an opportunity for improvement rather than a judgment, players can embrace it as a chance to identify areas of growth and work on them.

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Skinfold testing should be approached in the same way as any other component of fitness testing. It provides players with valuable information on areas they can focus on to become better athletes. If a player’s 2km time trial is slow, more training on the track is needed. If their vertical jump score is low, they can dedicate more time to leg work in the gym. Similarly, if a player carries excess body fat, a sports dietitian can guide them in making dietary changes. The ultimate goal is player improvement, not shaming or criticism.

While the removal of skinfold testing from the combine may mean that clubs will have to find alternative methods to estimate body fat, such as using height and weight measurements to calculate BMI, it opens up new possibilities for assessment. It allows clubs to explore other avenues and consider the best ways to evaluate potential draft picks. If skinfold testing proves valuable, clubs may choose to incorporate it within their internal assessments, even if it is not part of the annual combine. This change presents an opportunity for clubs to evaluate their current assessment methods and ensure they are aligned with player well-being and performance.

Overall, the AFL’s decision to remove skinfold testing from the combine demonstrates a commitment to player welfare and mental health. It encourages a positive shift in how players view their bodies and promotes an environment that focuses on improvement rather than judgment. By embracing this new approach, the AFL can continue to evolve its assessment methods and support players in reaching their full potential.

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FAQs

Q: Why was skinfold testing removed from the annual combine test battery?
A: Skinfold testing was removed due to concerns about mental health and body image among players. The decision aims to create a healthier and more supportive environment for all athletes.

Q: Is skinfold testing important for assessing a player’s body composition?
A: Yes, skinfold testing provides valuable information about a player’s body fat percentage. It helps identify areas for improvement and allows players to enhance their physical performance.

Q: How can skinfold testing be seen as an opportunity for improvement, rather than body shaming?
A: By educating players about the benefits of skinfold testing and emphasizing its role in performance enhancement, it can be reframed as a chance to identify areas for growth and development.

Summary

The Australian Football League (AFL) has made the decision to remove skinfold testing from the annual combine test battery, addressing concerns about mental health and body image in players. Skinfold testing, a method to assess body fat percentage, has been a part of the combine for over 20 years. While the decision has faced criticism, it presents an opportunity to educate players about the benefits of skinfold testing for individual and team performance. By reframing the test as a chance for improvement rather than a judgment, players can embrace it as a valuable tool. This change encourages a positive shift in the AFL’s assessment methods and underscores their commitment to player welfare.