Screenshot 2024 05 31 at 8.46.17 PMCategoriesFooty Tips Strength & Conditioning Coaches Tips

How to Mitigate Common AFL Injuries Like Calf Strains

In the high-intensity world of the Australian Football League (AFL), injuries are an unfortunate but common occurrence. Calf strains, among other injuries, can significantly hinder an athlete’s performance and career longevity. But how can AFL players, both amateur and professional, prevent such injuries? This blog post will delve into various strategies and techniques to prevent common AFL injuries, with a particular focus on calf strains. Leveraging the expertise of sports clinicians and recent research, we’ll explore dynamic warm-ups, strength and conditioning routines, proper techniques, and recovery strategies.

Overview of Common Injuries

AFL is a physically demanding sport, with players frequently experiencing injuries such as hamstring strains, shoulder (AC joint) injuries, knee (ACL) injuries, and calf strains. These injuries often stem from the high-speed, high-contact nature of the game [oai_citation:1, AFL Injuries: Common Injuries and Prevention Tips]( [oai_citation:2, Injury Prevention and Strength & Conditioning for AFL Players. — Pace Health Management]( Understanding the specifics of these injuries is crucial for effective prevention.

Specifics of Calf Strains

Calf strains typically occur during explosive movements such as sprinting or sudden changes in direction. They often involve the gastrocnemius or soleus muscles, with the former being more common in sports like AFL due to the rapid, high-intensity activities involved [oai_citation:3, The Assessment, Management and Prevention of Calf Muscle Strain Injuries: A Qualitative Study of the Practices and Perspectives of 20 Expert Sports Clinicians | Sports Medicine – Open | Full Text]( Symptoms include sudden pain, swelling, and difficulty in weight-bearing on the affected leg.

Importance of Warm-Up

A proper warm-up routine is essential for preparing the body for the demands of AFL. Dynamic warm-ups, which include stretches and movements that mimic the activities performed during the game, help increase blood flow to muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce the risk of injuries [oai_citation:4, Tackling AFL Injury: Prevention and Recovery Strategies for Peak Performance — The Osteo Hub]( [oai_citation:5, Prep to Play – Injury Prevention AFL – SquareOne Physio + Pilates + Exercise]( Key exercises include lane kicking, handballing and repeated sprints [oai_citation:6, Injury Prevention, and Strength & Conditioning for AFL Players. — Pace Health Management](

Effective Cool-Down Techniques

Cooling down after training and matches is equally important. Techniques such as static stretching, light jogging, and mobility exercises help in gradually lowering the heart rate and relaxing the muscles. This process aids in reducing muscle stiffness and soreness, promoting quicker recovery [oai_citation:7, Tackling AFL Injury: Prevention and Recovery Strategies for Peak Performance — The Osteo Hub](

Strength and Conditioning

Strength and conditioning are crucial for injury prevention in AFL. Core strengthening exercises, such as planks and bridges, help in stabilizing the pelvis and reducing the risk of injuries like Osteitis Pubis, which is prevalent in running-based sports [oai_citation:8, Injury Prevention and Strength & Conditioning for AFL Players. — Pace Health Management]( Exercises targeting the core and pelvic region improve overall stability and performance.

Lower Body Strength

Strengthening the lower body is vital for preventing leg and knee injuries. Exercises such as lunges, squats, and leg presses should be incorporated into the training regimen. These exercises enhance muscle strength, improve joint stability, and prepare the legs for the rigors of AFL [oai_citation:9, Physical characteristics of players within the Australian Football League participation pathways: a systematic review | Sports Medicine – Open | Full Text](

Proper Technique in Tackling and Kicking

Correct technique in tackling, kicking, and jumping is essential to minimize the risk of injuries. Coaches should emphasize proper form and provide regular feedback to players. Ensuring that players adopt the right mechanics during these activities can significantly reduce overuse injuries and the likelihood of collisions [oai_citation:10, Tackling AFL Injury: Prevention and Recovery Strategies for Peak Performance — The Osteo Hub](

Feedback and Improvement

Continuous feedback from coaches and physiotherapists is crucial for refining techniques. Regular video analysis and one-on-one coaching sessions can help players identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to their techniques [oai_citation:11, Physio Tips- AFL Pre-season | Gippsland Physiotherapy Group Blog](

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Effective recovery strategies are critical for maintaining performance and preventing injuries. Techniques such as hydrotherapy, which includes ice baths and hot-cold immersion, help in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness [oai_citation:12, AFL Injuries: Common Injuries and Prevention Tips]( Active recovery, involving low-impact activities like swimming or cycling, promotes blood flow and aids in muscle repair.

Ongoing Rehabilitation Practices

Regular manual therapies, such as massage, dry needling, and cupping, can help manage injuries and maintain physical condition. These treatments should be integrated into the routine care of AFL players to address any niggles early and prevent them from worsening [oai_citation:13, Tackling AFL Injury: Prevention and Recovery Strategies for Peak Performance — The Osteo Hub](

Ensuring Adequate Rest

Rest is a fundamental component of any training program. Adequate sleep and rest days allow the body to recover from the physical demands of training and competition. Incorporating rest into the training schedule helps in preventing overtraining and reduces the risk of injuries [oai_citation:14, Physio Tips- AFL Pre-season | Gippsland Physiotherapy Group Blog](

Mental Resilience and Preparation

Mental resilience is as important as physical preparation in AFL. Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, visualization, and cognitive-behavioral strategies can enhance mental toughness. These practices help players stay focused and composed under pressure, improving overall performance and reducing the likelihood of stress-related injuries [oai_citation:15, Physio Tips- AFL Pre-season | Gippsland Physiotherapy Group Blog](

FAQ Section

1. **What are the most common injuries in AFL?**

   – Common injuries in AFL include hamstring strains, shoulder (AC joint) injuries, knee (ACL) injuries, and calf strains [oai_citation:16, AFL Injuries: Common Injuries and Prevention Tips](


2. **How can dynamic warm-ups help in injury prevention?**

   – Dynamic warm-ups prepare the muscles for intense activity, improve flexibility, and increase blood flow, thereby reducing the risk of injuries [oai_citation:17, Prep to Play – Injury Prevention AFL – SquareOne Physio + Pilates + Exercise](

3. What are some effective strength and conditioning exercises for AFL players?

   – Core strengthening exercises like planks and bridges, along with lower body conditioning exercises such as lunges and squats, are effective in building strength and preventing injuries [oai_citation:18, Injury Prevention and Strength & Conditioning for AFL Players. — Pace Health Management]( [oai_citation:19, Physical characteristics of players within the Australian Football League participation pathways: a systematic review | Sports Medicine – Open | Full Text](

4. How important is a technique in preventing AFL injuries?

   – Proper technique in tackling, kicking, and jumping is crucial in minimizing the risk of overuse injuries and collisions [oai_citation:20, Tackling AFL Injury: Prevention and Recovery Strategies for Peak Performance — The Osteo Hub](

5. What are the best post-game recovery techniques?

   – Effective post-game recovery techniques include hydrotherapy, active recovery, and manual therapies like massage and dry needling [oai_citation:21, AFL Injuries: Common Injuries and Prevention Tips]( [oai_citation:22, Tackling AFL Injury: Prevention and Recovery Strategies for Peak Performance — The Osteo Hub](


Preventing injuries in AFL requires a comprehensive approach that includes dynamic warm-ups, strength and conditioning, proper techniques, and effective recovery strategies. By incorporating these practices into their training regimen, AFL players can significantly reduce their risk of injuries and maintain peak performance throughout the season. Stay proactive in your injury prevention strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful and injury-free AFL career.


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– Duhig, S. J., Bourdon, P. C., Hewitt, A., Leicht, A. S., & Evans, K. (2022). The assessment, management, and prevention of calf muscle strain injuries: A qualitative study of the practices and perspectives of 20 expert sports clinicians. *Sports Medicine – Open*, *8*(1).

– Gabbett, T. J., Hulin, B. T., Blanch, P., & Whiteley, R. (2016). The training—injury prevention paradox: Should athletes be training smarter and harder? *British Journal of Sports Medicine*, *50*(5), 273-280.

– Johnston, R., Devine, A., O’Sullivan, M., & Thomas, M. (2022). Physical characteristics of players within the Australian Football League participation pathways: A systematic review. *Sports Medicine – Open*, *8*(1).

– Orchard, J., Seward, H., & McGivern, J. (2012). Injury incidence, risk factors and prevention in Australian Rules Football: A review. *Sports Medicine*, *42*(4), 271-285.

– Bourdon, P. C., Cardinale, M., Murray, A., Gastin, P., Kellmann, M., Varley, M. C., Gabbett, T. J., Coutts, A. J., & McCall, A. (2017). Monitoring athlete training loads: A consensus statement. *International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance*, *12*(2), 161-170.

Harley ReidCategoriesFooty Tips

How to Build Strength Without Losing Agility: A Comprehensive Guide for AFL Players

In the fast-paced world of Australian Rules Football (AFL), achieving the right balance between strength and agility is crucial for optimal performance. As an AFL strength and conditioning coach at Melbourne Football Club, and with a Master’s degree in Applied Sport Science, I’ve dedicated my career to helping players reach their peak potential on the field. This blog post will delve into the strategies for building strength without sacrificing agility, providing insights backed by scientific research and practical experience.

Understanding the Balance Between Strength and Agility

Strength is a fundamental component of high performance in AFL. It contributes significantly to tackling, marking, and overall physical presence on the field. Developing muscle mass can enhance these aspects, giving players an edge over their opponents. Studies show that strength training can improve overall athletic performance by increasing muscle power and endurance (Granacher et al., 2016).

The Importance of Agility

Agility, on the other hand, is essential for quick direction changes, dodging opponents, and maintaining speed. It allows players to be elusive and maintain momentum during fast breaks. Agility training improves the body’s ability to move quickly and efficiently, which is vital in a sport where rapid changes in direction and speed are frequent (Stoica et al., 2022).

Strategies for Building Strength Without Losing Agility

Plyometric exercises, such as box jumps and explosive push-ups, improve power and speed. These exercises enhance muscle strength while promoting quick, agile movements, making them perfect for AFL players. Plyometric training involves rapid stretch-shortening cycle muscle actions, which significantly improve maximal power output during sport-specific movements (Haugen et al., 2020).

2. Utilize Compound Movements

Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. These exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting overall strength without overdeveloping specific muscles that could hinder agility. Compound movements are efficient in building functional strength that translates well onto the field.

3. Implement Functional Strength Training

Functional strength training involves exercises that mimic the movements performed during a game. Exercises like sled pushes, kettlebell swings, and agility ladder drills improve both strength and functional agility, ensuring players can translate their gym gains to on-field performance. This type of training ensures that the strength developed is practical and applicable in real-game scenarios.

4. Maintain Flexibility and Mobility

Flexibility and mobility are crucial for maintaining agility. Incorporate stretching routines, yoga, or pilates to keep muscles limber and joints mobile. This balance helps prevent injuries and ensures muscles can perform at their best. A study by Granacher et al. (2016) highlights the importance of balance and flexibility in overall athletic performance and injury prevention.

5. Periodize Your Training

Periodization involves structuring your training into cycles, focusing on different aspects like strength, agility, and recovery at various times. This method ensures players develop well-rounded physical capabilities without overtraining any single attribute. Haugen et al. (2020) emphasize the importance of periodized training for maintaining peak performance throughout the season.

6. Focus on Core Strength

A strong core is vital for both strength and agility. Core exercises like planks, Russian twists, and leg raises help stabilize the body, improving balance and coordination, which are essential for agile movements. A solid core supports all other physical activities, enhancing both strength and agility.

7. Use Speed and Agility Drills

Incorporate drills specifically designed to improve speed and agility. Cone drills, shuttle runs, and zig-zag sprints enhance footwork and quickness, ensuring players can rapidly change direction and pace during a game. These drills are essential for maintaining the quick reflexes needed in AFL.

Eat for Performance

Nutrition plays a critical role in building strength and maintaining agility. A balanced diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates provides the energy and nutrients necessary for muscle growth and recovery. Proper nutrition supports all physical training efforts and aids in quicker recovery times.

Prioritize Recovery

Recovery is as important as training. Ensure adequate sleep, incorporate rest days, and use recovery techniques such as foam rolling, massage, and ice baths to keep muscles fresh and prevent injuries. Recovery strategies are crucial for maintaining the balance between training and rest, ensuring continuous improvement without overtraining (Haugen et al., 2020).

Advanced Training Techniques

Proprioceptive training, which involves exercises that enhance balance and body awareness, is beneficial for improving agility and strength. This type of training can include exercises on unstable surfaces, like Bosu balls, which challenge the body’s stability and enhance muscle control. Studies have shown that proprioceptive training can significantly improve balance, strength, and agility in athletes (Stoica et al., 2022).

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest or low-intensity periods. This type of training improves cardiovascular fitness, burns fat, and increases overall athletic performance. HIIT can be particularly effective for AFL players, who need to maintain high levels of intensity throughout the game.

Combining Strength and Endurance Training

Integrating strength and endurance training can help build overall fitness without sacrificing agility. Endurance training enhances cardiovascular capacity, while strength training builds muscle power. Combining these two forms of training ensures that players are strong and agile, with the stamina to sustain performance throughout the game.

Practical Applications for AFL Training

When designing a training program, it’s essential to include a mix of strength, agility, and flexibility exercises. Here’s a sample weekly training schedule:

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#### Monitoring Progress

Regularly monitor progress by tracking performance metrics such as speed, agility, strength, and flexibility. Use tests like the vertical jump, 40-meter dash, and agility cones to measure improvements. Keeping track of these metrics helps in adjusting the training program as needed to ensure continuous development.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Overtraining can lead to injuries and decreased performance. Ensure to balance intense training sessions with adequate rest and recovery. Listen to your body and adjust the training intensity if necessary to avoid burnout.

Neglecting Flexibility

Neglecting flexibility can lead to stiff muscles and a reduced range of motion, which can hinder agility. Incorporate regular stretching and flexibility exercises into your routine to maintain optimal muscle function and prevent injuries.

Imbalanced Training

Focusing too much on either strength or agility can create imbalances. Ensure your training program is well-rounded, addressing all aspects of physical fitness. This balance is crucial for maintaining overall athletic performance and preventing injuries.

Balancing strength and agility is crucial for AFL players aiming to reach peak performance. By incorporating these strategies into your training regimen, you can build the strength needed for powerful plays without compromising the agility required to outmaneuver opponents. Remember, the key is to train smart, focusing on exercises and routines that enhance overall athletic performance.

For personalized training plans and expert advice, feel free to reach out. Together, we can elevate your game to the next level.


Granacher, U., Lesinski, M., Büsch, D., Muehlbauer, T., Prieske, O., Puta, C., & Behm, D. G. (2016). Effects of physical activity interventions on strength, balance, and falls in middle-aged adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. *Sports Medicine – Open, 2*(1), 1-37.

Haugen, T. A., Tønnessen, E., Seiler, S. K., & Sandbakk, Ø. (2020). The training and development of elite sprint performance: An integration of scientific and best practice literature. *Sports Medicine – Open, 6*(1), 1-23.

Stoica, D. V., Badau, D., Stoica, M., Aron, A., Focan, G., Monea, D., & Calota, N. D. (2022). The effects of proprioceptive training on balance, strength, agility, and dribbling in adolescent male soccer players. *International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19*(4), 2028.

Learning my AFL Reconditioning Philosophy (1)CategoriesFooty Tips

Unlocking the Power of Reconditioning in AFL: A Comprehensive Guide to Athlete Return to Performance


In the high-impact world of Australian Football League (AFL), the significance of reconditioning cannot be overstated. Reconditioning in AFL encompasses a broad spectrum of strategies aimed at ensuring athletes recover efficiently, maintain peak physical condition, and return from injuries stronger and more resilient. This comprehensive guide aims to unlock the power of reconditioning, offering insights into the athlete-centered approach that integrates the latest in sports science. As we gear up for an upcoming live Zoom presentation on AFL reconditioning, we invite you to explore the pivotal role of reconditioning in enhancing athlete recovery and performance.

The Rehab Journey: An Athlete-Centered Approach

Reconditioning in AFL is not a one-size-fits-all process. It’s a personalized journey that begins with an in-depth individual assessment, tailoring the recovery plan to meet each athlete’s unique needs. The key pillars of this journey include:

  • Individual Assessment and Customization: Understanding the specific needs and challenges of each athlete to develop a bespoke recovery plan.
  • Mental Health and Resilience: Recognizing the mental and emotional aspects of recovery, fostering resilience, and supporting athletes through their rehab journey.
  • Nutrition and Recovery: Highlighting the critical role of nutrition in accelerating recovery and optimizing performance.

Communication among athletes, coaches, and medical teams is paramount, ensuring that everyone is aligned in the recovery and reconditioning goals.

Reconditioning Philosophy: Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

The philosophy behind AFL reconditioning is holistic, focusing not just on immediate recovery but on the athlete’s long-term health and career longevity. This involves:

  • Periodization: Implementing a phased approach that includes off-season preparation, in-season maintenance, and post-season recovery.
  • Long-Term Development: Keeping the athlete’s long-term development and career progression in view, beyond the immediate competition season.

Applying the Science: Objectivity and Integration

Sport science plays a critical role in AFL reconditioning, providing objective data to guide decision-making. Key components include:

  • Objective Measurement and Monitoring: Utilizing technologies such as GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring to gather real-time data on athlete performance and recovery.
  • Case Studies and Best Practices: Learning from successful reconditioning strategies through case studies.
  • Techniques for Flexibility and Injury Reduction: Implementing stretching and support strategies to enhance flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries.

Integrating Reconditioning Principles

The ultimate goal is to seamlessly integrate reconditioning principles into daily training and competition schedules, tailoring plans to the individual needs and goals of each athlete. This requires continuous evaluation and adjustment, ensuring that the reconditioning strategies evolve in line with the athlete’s progress and the demands of the sport.

A comprehensive approach to reconditioning in AFL is vital for optimizing athlete recovery, performance, and longevity. As we conclude, we underscore the importance of embracing an athlete-centered approach, informed by sport science, to achieve these goals. We invite you to join our live Zoom presentation for deeper insights and interactive discussions on applying these principles to your practice or team.

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Hughes L, Rosenblatt B, Haddad F, Gissane C, McCarthy D, Clarke T, Ferris G, Dawes J, Paton B, Patterson SD. Comparing the Effectiveness of Blood Flow Restriction and Traditional Heavy Load Resistance Training in the Post-Surgery Rehabilitation of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Patients: A UK National Health Service Randomised Controlled Trial. Sports Med. 2019 Nov;49(11):1787-1805. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01137-2. PMID: 31301034.

  • Sandford GN, Laursen PB, Buchheit M. Anaerobic Speed/Power Reserve and Sport Performance: Scientific Basis, Current Applications and Future Directions. Sports Med. 2021 Oct;51(10):2017-2028. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01523-9. Epub 2021 Aug 16. PMID: 34398445.
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  • Malone et a. 2016 Malone, S, Roe, M, Doran, DA, Gabbett, TJ and Collins, K (2016) High chronic training loads and exposure to bouts of maximal velocity running reduce injury risk in elite Gaelic football. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
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Five essential agility drills to improve lateral speed for athletes.CategoriesFooty Tips

Elevate Your Game: Power Tips for Aspiring AFL Footballers to Dodge Opponents

Aspiring AFL footballers, listen up! If you’re aiming to weave through your opponents with the grace of a gazelle, you’re in the right place. We’re about to dive into some game-changing advice that will not only help you dodge your opponents but also leave them in awe of your agility. With insights derived from the latest research, this post will serve as your roadmap to becoming a more elusive and effective player on the field. So, are you ready to take your AFL game up a notch? Let’s get the ball rolling!

Harnessing the Power of Small-Sided Games

First up, let’s talk about small-sided games. These aren’t just fun; they’re a goldmine for improving your agility. According to Young & Rogers (2014), small-sided games significantly boost your ability to make quicker decisions on the field. It’s not about how fast you move, but how quickly you decide to make that move. Imagine being able to out-think your opponent and be one step ahead, literally. That’s the edge small-sided games can give you, making them a crucial part of your training arsenal.

Rethinking Change-of-Direction Training

Change-of-direction training might seem like a no-brainer for agility, right? However, the same research by Young & Rogers (2014) suggests that its benefits might not be as pronounced as we thought, especially for developing the kind of reactive agility that makes a difference in real-game scenarios. This doesn’t mean you should ditch these drills entirely, but rather, integrate them with other training forms for a well-rounded agility workout.

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The Neuromuscular Training Advantage

Zouhal et al. (2019) bring neuromuscular training into the spotlight, highlighting its significant impact on agility performance in elite soccer players. Given the similarities in agility demands between soccer and AFL, incorporating neuromuscular training into your routine could be a game-changer. This type of training focuses on improving your muscle response times and coordination, essential for executing quick turns and evasive maneuvers.

Sharpening Your Perceptual Skills

Perceptual skill, or the ability to quickly process and react to your surroundings, is another critical component of agility. Young & Willey (2010) emphasize the importance of integrating perceptual training into your agility drills. It’s not just about how fast you are but how fast you can perceive a gap or an opponent’s move and react accordingly. This skill can often be the difference between a successful evasion and a missed opportunity.

Speed, Agility, and Quickness (SAQ) Training

Lastly, Milanović et al. (2013) shed light on the effectiveness of SAQ training in enhancing agility. This approach, which combines speed, agility, and quickness exercises, has been shown to improve performance significantly, even when the ball is in play. For AFL players, this means being more adaptable and agile, with or without the ball, enhancing your ability to evade opponents and create opportunities.

Incorporating These Insights into Your Training

How do you put all this into practice? Start by integrating small-sided games into your training sessions to enhance your decision-making speed. Complement these with neuromuscular training exercises to improve your physical response times and coordination. Don’t overlook the importance of perceptual training; consider drills that mimic real-game scenarios to sharpen your reactive agility. Lastly, incorporate SAQ training to round out your agility development, ensuring you’re quick, nimble, and ready to outmaneuver your opponents.

Improving your ability to evade opponents in AFL requires a multifaceted approach, as research vividly illustrates. By focusing on small-sided games, neuromuscular, and SAQ training, while also honing your perceptual skills, you’re setting yourself up for success on the field. Remember, agility is not just physical; it’s a mental game, too. So, lace up, stay sharp, and get ready to leave your opponents wondering where you went.

Eager to elevate your AFL game further? Dive into more insights and tips on our blog and join a community of footballers who, just like you, are on their way to greatness. Let’s turn these insights into action and transform your agility on the field!

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Check out our favourite change of direction strength drills with the below videos:

Young, W., & Rogers, N. F. R. (2014). Effects of small-sided game and change-of-direction training on reactive agility and change-of-direction speed. *Journal of Sports Sciences, 32*, 307-314. [

Zouhal, H., Abderrahman, A. B., Dupont, G., Truptin, P., Le Bris, R., Le Postec, E., Sghaeir, Z., Brughelli, M., Granacher, U., & Bideau, B. (2019). Effects of Neuromuscular Training on Agility Performance in Elite Soccer Players. *Frontiers in Physiology, 10*. [ (

Young, W., & Willey, B. (2010). Analysis of a reactive agility field test. *Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 13 3*, 376-378. [ (

Milanović, Z., Sporiš, G., Trajković, N., James, N., & Šamija, K. (2013). Effects of a 12 Week SAQ Training Programme on Agility with and without the Ball among Young Soccer Players. *Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 12 1*, 97-103. [ć/967e40951a76536ea35fb260223e6752/(ć/967e40951a76536ea35fb260223e6752/