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AFL Disability kids playing in AFL.

Safety and footy

Footy programs are for all young people. There is minimal tackling, the rules are modified and there is an inclusive atmosphere. That said, a common concern of coaches is whether a young person’s medical or physical condition make footy activities unsafe.


What might this look like on the footy field?

Sometimes, a medical or physical condition will increase the risk of injury or harm from some physical activities. For example, it is not safe for young people with neck instability to play contact sports. It may be useful to speak to the young person and their family about any activities that may need to be avoided.

It is important to be aware that some young people with disability may have reduced safety awareness. For example, young people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can be impulsive, jumping into tasks and activities before thinking about the consequences. They may not see the potential dangers of their actions (eg. climbing, jumping, tackling), which can place both them and other young people at increased risk of getting hurt. It is important to set clear rules, and to intervene early, if you notice anything concerning.

Sometimes, when a young person feels overwhelmed, worried, anxious, or stressed, they might run away.

  • Set clear rules: The rules of footy should be covered in the first session of the season, with an emphasis on safe behaviour. It can be helpful to use pictures as well as words to explain the rules. Keep the rules in a place that is clearly visible to the players. Review the rules regularly.
  • Monitor group dynamics: If things in the group are getting intense or emotions are running high, intervene early and consider switching to a calm, more structured activity for the whole group.
  • If unsure, ask the parent: If you are unsure whether a young person’s medical condition impacts safety to play, ask the parents. With parent consent, you may be able to contact the young person’s doctor, if you have questions or concerns that the parent can’t answer.
  • Make the venue safe: Young people on the autism spectrum and those who are anxious might sometimes run away. A safe venue with fences and closed gates may help both parents and players feel at ease.

AllPlay Footy is a joint initiative by Monash University and the AFL. AllPlay Footy was founded at Deakin University in 2015 and has been part of Monash Education since 2021. The AllPlay Footy content and resources presented here have been developed with people with lived experience of disability, consultants from National Sporting Organisations for People with Disability, psychologists and researchers, and are brought to you with funding from a Department of Social Services Information, Linkages and Capacity Building: Social and Community Participation Stream (2020-2024) grant. We aim to use language that is respectful to everyone.


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