By Emma Hoy

It is never an easy day when the diagnosis of an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) rupture is confirmed, particularly when it’s highlighted as a ‘season ending injury’ in AFLW. The diagnosis is the beginning of a 9-12 month journey involving hard work, persistence and resilience. For Vaomua (Mua) Laloifi, it was the beginning of her road to recovery, and the beginning of her comeback. Mua is a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of athlete, and shortly after her injury, Mua posted on her social media “I will make sure I come back bigger, better and stronger than before”.

I met Mua in June 2018, when she presented to the Physiohealth clinic 2 weeks after her ACL reconstruction on her Right knee. From the moment she stepped foot in the door, I knew she was committed to taking on the journey wholeheartedly, no excuses, just hard work. For many athletes, coming back from an ACL injury can be a significant mental battle, particularly when it comes to return to sport and the fear of re-injury. But for Mua there was no holding back, it was full steam ahead. In fact, in the latter stages of rehab, we had to actually hold the reigns on Mua returning to play too soon.

Mua’s ACL rehabilitation journey initially involved weekly Physiotherapy sessions to regain full range of motion of her knee, and to build her quads, hamstring and gluteal strength. This involved both hands on treatment and progressive strength and conditioning programs. Sessions then progressed by integrating single leg strength work and balance work in addition to a return to running program. Fortunately, Mua had the opportunity to use the Alter- G treadmill in the clinic, an anti-gravity treadmill that uses air pressure to progressively load the athlete to full body weight running again.

 “I will make sure I come back bigger, better and stronger than before”

Image: Vaomua Laloifi training on the anti-gravity Alter-G treadmill during her early stages of return to sport following an ACL injury.

It was only a matter of time before Mua was hopping, leaping and bounding across the football oval again, giving fellow teammates at the Western Bulldogs a run for their money during training sessions. To put it simply, I would not want to be on the other end of a tackle or contest with her, she’s one powerful player.

I think it says it all when you follow the journey of Mua through the multiple football clubs that she has been recruited to. Originally a ‘Pie’ at Collingwood, then a ‘Doggy’ at the Western Bulldogs and now a ‘True Blue’ at Carlton, she’s in high demand. She’s already off to a flying start this season with a Round 1 win against Richmond in the AFLW. 

As a physiotherapist, it’s journeys like these that make the career so rewarding. Mua will still pop into the clinic for some physiotherapy maintenance, but for the most part, she can be seen blitzing the field in the number 8 guernsey for Carlton.

Image: Vaomua Laloifi receiving her number 8 Carlton jumper with proud physiotherapist Emma Hoy at the AFLW season launch.