Emily – Podiatrist, In Stride Health Clinic
As a netballer, a podiatrist and being passionate in treating sports injuries, I have extensive knowledge in ways to best prepare for and stay fit during the netball season/games and reduce the risk of injury. During a game of any sport, it is essential to look after our bodies and care for the parts that get us across the court, our feet.
Through my passion for the sport, I have been a player myself, where I have been a representative player for my hometown Deniliquin and Murray League as well as having been selected in the Netball Victoria Talent Academy (pictured below for Northern Academy). I am also a coach and umpire, where I achieved my ‘C’ badge and currently coach my U15 girls for St Therese’s Netball Club.
So…let’s get out our puffer jackets, coloured hair ribbons and orange slices because netball is back! The first full season, since the pandemic, of netball is underway with multiple leagues and competitions across Victoria well into their season. With previous seasons in the last two years being interrupted and unpredictable due to lockdowns, a lot of players are struggling with fitness and performance on the court. There is nothing more devasting to passionate netballers than to injure themselves and end up on the sidelines for the remainder of the season. We all want to get back to the netball we all know and love. Hopefully my advice provides a few tips on how to reduce the risk of foot and ankle injuries to keep yourself on the court and playing as to your optimal ability.
Common Injury and Causes in Netball
Netball is a high intensity sport that requires a lot of fast paced change-in direction movements and jumping and landing under high stress situations. Netball is a described to be a non-contact sport however individuals who have ever played netball know that it isn’t quite true, and injuries can occur by coming into contact with another player. The level of strain on your lower limbs is high and these factors of the game make the risk of foot and ankle injuries is incredibly high.
The most common netball injuries for the foot and ankle include:
· Ankle sprains
· Achilles tendinopathy
· Stress fractures
· ACL (Anterior crucial ligament) – knee injury
With these injuries, we want to validate that a players technique and footwear are adequate to support the foot and ankle to perform movements during a netball game.
Preparing for a Game
Netball is predominately a winter sport, and therefore are played in sometimes single digit temperatures. Warming up is extremely important when it comes to preventing injury in any sport and implementing an effective warm up encourages development of technique and strengthening in muscles used in netball. A warm-up should begin with a gradual build-up of cardiovascular activity (i.e. running up and down the court), dynamic and static stretching and game-related skills.
Netball Australia outline that the KNEE program is a specific program developed to prevent injury to be used in a netball warm up. It focuses on the areas of footwork, strength, balance/landing and agility.
Warm up/Footwork activities:
- Jogging forwards and backwards
- Butt flicks forwards and backwards
- High knee forwards and backwards
- Side-step up and back
Strength activities are designed to target specific areas of muscles, i.e. quadriceps, gluteal/hamstrings and core. These activities include the dynamic and static stretches of the warm-up. When performing static stretches it is important to hold the stretch for 30 seconds for optimal effect. Some of the strength activities include:
Balance/landing exercises focuses on players using the correct technique in order to safely jump and land. This encourages the prevention of ankle injuries and knee injuries including ACL injury.
Balance/landing activities include:
- Jumping and landing on both legs and single leg
- Partner push
- Surprises with a ball
The agility component of the KNEE program specifies more game-related movements. Mirroring movements that you will perform on the court into your warm-up will encourage the use of correct technique and enhance performance on the court.
These agility activities include:
- Defensive shuffle
- Driving to the ball
- ‘Y’ drill with a ball
Implementation of a warm-up before every game can assist in injury prevention and encourage an enhanced performance on the court.
Think of a full netball team on the court. What shoes is every player wearing? The answer is Asics Netburners. Asics has been the number one brand when it comes to runners when it comes to netball for years. The Asics GEL-Netburner is the number one shoe in netball with their lightweight Flytefoam technology in the midsole and thick rubber outsole for greater contact with the court. The GEL cushioning across the shoe helps provide greater energy return in the forefoot for those players who are always ‘on your toes’. The Asics Netburner Professional whilst also containing the Flytefoam technology for a lightweight but impact adsorption also contains a carefully designed outsole that promotes quicker transition on the court for those times when you quickly shift from attacking to defending or vice versa.
The new shoe on the court is from the brand Mizuno, how in the last couple of years has created a ranger of runners specifically for netball. The Mizuno Wave Stealth embodies a Wave technology that provides lateral support on the court, ideal for quick changes of direction on the court to prevent ankle sprains and footwork calls. There outsole contains a Dynamotion Groove that enables forefoot flexibility allowing for greater push off when driving for the ball and greater contact with the court, stabilising and protecting the foot and ankle from injury. Another notable Mizuno netball shoe is the Mizuno Wave Momentum. This shoe contains the same Wave technology which promotes stability through the foot for those fast leads and enhanced cushioning for those high balls and rebounds whilst also decreasing the amount of load being put through the foot. This dispersion of load will decrease the chance of overuse and overload injuries such as a stress fracture.
It’s essential to wear netball shoes (activity specific) over runners to prevent injury on the court. Running shoes do not have the same support and capacity to protect your foot and ankle when playing netball and can increase your risk of hurting yourself either during a game or over a prolonged period of time playing/training.
To conclude, we want everyone to stay out on the court for the remainder of the 2022 netball season and beyond. Through prioritising controllable factors of the game, the risk of season-ending injury and painful niggles will decrease and the chance to enjoy the game that is netball will be greater.
For further advice or if you have sustained an injury and are looking to get back out onto the court then book in for an appointment with our podiatrists or physios at In Stride Health Clinic. We will help you get back to the game you love and work with you to prevent future pain/injury.
Emily Mildren is a registered podiatrist who practices at In Stride Health Clinic Mondays, Thursdays (including evenings) and every second Saturday morning. Book online via our website www.instridehealthclinic.com.au or phone 93728091.