Netball is a non-contact sport, played mainly by women on a small, hard court. This reduces the risk of injury in the game. However, the fast-paced, sudden change of motion and jumping aspects of the game can lead to a higher risk of certain injuries.
Equipment and clothing
Most players do not wear any form of protective clothing and no individual equipment is required. The most important piece of clothing for a netball player is the shoes, which should provide the right level of arch support and cushioning for the individual as well as being suitable for the surface on which they are playing. A player may choose to wear a brace or support following injury.
Warm-ups should not be overlooked in any sport as they can be a vital and effective part of injury prevention when performed correctly. A warm-up should consist of a pulse raiser activity, usually jogging, to get the heart rate up and warm the muscles. This should last for approximately 10 minutes and should be followed by active stretches to improve muscle elasticity (such as heel to bum and carioca exercises). Static stretches can also be performed if required. A warm-up should then finish with skill drills to promote motor control and coordination, including passing and shooting practices. In total, a warm-up should last around 20 minutes.
As with all sports, the athlete must be fit for the game in hand. Netball is a high paced game with short rest periods between plays and at quarterly intervals. The athlete should perform cardiovascular training which mirrors this to enable their cardiovascular system to keep up with the high demands of the sport and recover quickly when rest is possible. The repetitive jumping, catching and throwing nature of the sport means that the player’s leg and arm muscles must be strong enough to endure repeated contractions without fatiguing. In addition, jumping and pivoting can put the body off balance and so work on proprioception and core muscle strength may be beneficial in avoiding injuries sustained by losing balance.
Common Netball Injuries
A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries in netball due to the landing and pivoting movements involved. A sprain is a tear or complete rupture of a ligament, and in the case of the ankle, the most commonly injured ligament is the anterior talofibular ligament. This ligament lies on the outside of the joint and is injured when the player rolls the ankle so that the sole of the foot faces inwards. Find out more about sprained ankles.
The ACL is the anterior cruciate ligament, which sits deep within the knee joint and is vital in providing stability to the knee joint. The ACL is commonly injured in non-contact sports just as frequently as contact sports. The usual mechanism involves a twisting motion at the knee. The player will feel immediate severe pain, which may fade quickly, followed by substantial swelling and a feeling of instability. Learn more about ACL injuries.
Patella tendinopathy is sometimes also known as jumper’s knee due to its prevalence in sports involving jumping and bounding. Netball is no exception, especially when combined with the hard concrete surface it is usually played on. Patella tendinopathy is inflammation and degeneration of the patella tendon (or ligament as it is sometimes called) which attaches the patella and the quadriceps muscles to the Tibia (shin bone). Find out more about patella tendinopathy.
The Achilles tendon is the thick tendon at the back of the lower leg which attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel. Tendinopathy is an inflammatory or degenerative condition which causes pain, thickening and stiffness in the tendon. Achilles injuries are not uncommon in netball and similar sports such as basketball which require the athlete to jump and bound repetitively on a hard surface. Learn more about Achilles tendinopathy.
A hamstring strain or pulled hamstring is a common injury across all sports. The usual mechanism of a hamstring injury is during a short burst of speed when running. The hamstrings are placed under most strain whilst they act to decelerate the forward movement of the lower leg. Learn more about hamstring strains.
The groin or adductor muscles are commonly injured in fast-paced sports requiring sudden changes of direction. The action of the groin muscles is to bring the leg towards the centre and across in front of the body. The muscles are most commonly injured when they are stretched and the leg is taken away from the centre of the body. Find out more about groin strains.
Rotator cuff injuries
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles which attach to the scapula (shoulder blade) and help to stabilise the shoulder joint and produce rotation movements. Netball involves a lot of overhead throwing, catching and shooting movements, leaving players susceptible to injuries, be it tears or tendinopathies of one or more rotator cuff muscles. Learn more about rotator cuff injuries.