Wednesday, 29 May 2024

A New Approach to Player Assessment in Australian Football

Innovative Changes for a Healthier Future


The Australian Football League (AFL) has recently made waves with a controversial decision to remove skinfold testing from its annual combine test battery. This move, motivated by concerns about mental health and body image, has sparked both support and skepticism within the AFL community. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this decision and its potential impact on player assessment in the future.

The Importance of Skinfold Testing

For over 20 years, the skinfold test has been a key component of the AFL Draft Combine, providing valuable insights into a player’s body composition. By measuring the thickness of a pinch of skin at multiple sites, this test helps determine body fat percentage. This information is crucial for understanding a player’s physical capabilities, including vertical jumping ability, agility on the field, and overall endurance.

Addressing Mental Health and Body Image Concerns

The decision to remove skinfold testing from the combine stems from growing concerns about mental health and body image issues among players. Critics argue that the test results have led to body shaming and negative self-perception. However, it is important to note that the problem lies not with the test itself, but with how the results are presented and interpreted.

A Shift in Perspective

Rather than discarding skinfold testing altogether, a more constructive approach would involve educating players on its purpose and benefits. By emphasizing its role in enhancing physical performance, both individually and as part of a team, players can develop a positive mindset towards the test. Skinfold measurements can be seen as an opportunity for improvement, rather than a source of shame.

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A Holistic Approach to Player Assessment

In the absence of the skinfold test, AFL clubs will need to explore alternative methods for assessing body composition. One possible solution is to use height and weight measurements to calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI). However, it is important to recognize the limitations of BMI, particularly when dealing with muscular individuals like football players.

A Path Towards a Healthier Future

Moving forward, the AFL can consider integrating other components of fitness testing to provide a more comprehensive player assessment. By identifying areas for improvement, such as speed, strength, and endurance, clubs can guide players towards targeted training programs. This holistic approach will not only support their physical development but also contribute to their overall well-being.


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

Q: How does skinfold testing benefit players?
A: Skinfold testing provides valuable information about body composition, helping players identify areas for improvement and enhancing their performance on the field.

Q: What alternative methods can AFL clubs use to assess body composition?
A: In the absence of the skinfold test, clubs can consider using height and weight measurements to calculate BMI, although its accuracy for muscular individuals is limited.


As the AFL embraces a new era of player assessment, it is crucial to prioritize the mental well-being of athletes. While the removal of skinfold testing may have been met with mixed reactions, it opens up opportunities for a holistic approach to player development. By focusing on education, empowerment, and comprehensive assessment methods, the AFL can create a healthier and more supportive environment for its players.

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