Is Optus Stadium an Injury Risk?………

Perth’s new eye-catching feature of the Burswood Waterfront has come up in discussions since the WA Government agreed to go ahead with the plan for the new multi-sport venue.  Other than its exterior features resembling that of a bird’s nest, the recent interest in the stadium has been centred on its surface and supposed injuries as a result of the playing arena being ‘too hard’.

Now this article isn’t to discuss causality or plausibility centred around the injures themselves, (If Buddy Franklin’s injury was directly related to the Optus Stadium surface then it didn’t affect him much whilst serving West Coast their first loss of the season) but rather, how training on different surfaces can have a positive effect on your performance.

As an Exercise Physiologist and Physical Performance Coach – I see each of my clients as a finely tuned athlete and often discuss their bodies being like that of a F1 car when it comes to training, rehabilitation and injuries.  One thing that I’ll express early on is that if your body is tuned to one specific training surface, then immediately changing to training on a different surface can leave athlete’s experiencing soreness or even injuries.  If you keep everything else the same; intensity, volume and frequency, you are changing your stimulus and your body needs time to adjust to this.  Think of it like taking an F1 car and trying to get the same performance output on sand – it’s just not going to function the way it should!

Using running as a primary example – most people will clock up kilometres running around the suburbs, near the beach or a scenic route of their choosing. Others prefer to run on grass and some use a treadmill at the gym.  Each surface has a different impulse factor or rebound.  For example, the bounce height of a basketball will be different on the road compared to grass.  A study on an athlete running on different surfaces showed that there is a significant effect on performance based on different surfaces.  It also showed significant increase in thigh and calf circumference as well as improvements in vertical leap and 12 minute run performance.  Not only can you see performance improvements when changing training surfaces, but it can also be useful in injury prevention.  Any type of semi unstable surface is a great way to help improve joint stability and coordination.  Team sport Strength and Conditioning Coaches will often have their athletes complete basic straight line running drills with gym mats randomly scattered in their path for them to step on (no not avoid).  The change in surface forces the muscles around the joint to protect the integrity of the position so that an injury is less likely to occur.  From another perspective this drill also reinforces strong positions with front cycle running mechanics.

While it is easy to point the blame on Perth’s new Stadium and this may sell papers and spark news interest, the stadium itself should not be classified as an “injury risk” rather more of a stimulus change which the athletes are not familiar with.  If you are looking at changing up your training surface I recommend you start with gradual variations and progress with small increments of duration, intensity and frequency respectively.  Remember that some soreness can be expected, however if you have ongoing discomfort you may have an underlying issue which needs to be assessed by a Physiotherapist.

I have been sending my clients to the team at Trained Physio & Fitness for sometime now as they have a special interest in Sports Injuries and understand the stress athletes inflict on their bodies.  I would not trust my clients with any other Physiotherapist in Perth and highly recommend Trained Physio & Fitness as one of Perth’s elite Physiotherapists.

Written by: Matthew Olds

BSc – Exercise Physiology

Strength & Conditioning Coach – Subiaco Football Club

ASCA – Level 2 Coach

Accredited Exercise Physiologist


Karve, R. and Tiwari, P. (2010). Running training on different surfaces have different effects on performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(Suppl_1), pp.i27-i27.
Katkat, D., Bulut, Y., Demir, M. and Akar, S. (2009). Effects of different sport surfaces on muscle performance. Biology of Sport, 26(3), pp.285-296.
Tessutti, V., Ribeiro, A., Trombini-Souza, F. and Sacco, I. (2012). Attenuation of foot pressure during running on four different surfaces: asphalt, concrete, rubber, and natural grass. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(14), pp.1545-1550.