The netball season is just starting which is very exciting given the last couple of seasons have been cut short due to covid. Netball is the most highly participated sport among Australian females. It is continuing to pave the way for female sport in Australia and is influential in allowing females to participate in regular physical activity.
Unfortunately, lots of players get turned off netball due to its high injury risk. In particular, ankle injuries account for >40% of all netball injuries in Australia. Netball ankle injuries also account for at least 29% of insurance injury claims. Recurrent ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability (CAI) is also common with netballers as the demands placed upon their lower extremities and the rapid contested change of direction, jumping and landing can make ankles susceptible to injury.
There are however prevention strategies that can and should be used by all netballers to ensure they can prevent knee and ankle injuries while playing. These prevention strategies can also help to improve an individual’s performance on the court.
- Ankle and leg strength:
It is important that all netballers ensure they are doing some basic strength exercises to keep their muscles strong. When we look at ‘ankle strength’ we look at the strength of the whole kinetic chain. This means we want to have strength in our glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and intrinsic foot muscles. In particular, hip and glute strength is essential in preventing injuries in the knee and ankle down the chain.
The Netball Knee program is fantastic program created by netball Australia that was designed to prevent netball related knee and ankle injuries. It has a series of drills, warmups and strength exercises designed to ready the body for training and games as well as strengthen and prevent injury.
- Balance and Proprioception
Balance is our ability to keep our centre of mass over our base of support (AKA, stay stable and not fall over!) and proprioception is the brain’s ability to know where each body part is in space at any time. Both are essential in preventing ankle sprains in netball. After an ankle sprain, an individual’s balance and proprioception on that foot/ankle is impaired and needs to be built up again to prevent recurrence.
Practicing static and dynamic balance exercises is essential for any netballer to prevent an ankle sprain. Simple balance exercises such as balancing on one foot on the ground, foam, pillow or unstable surface while throwing a netball against a wall or to a teammate are a great sport specific way of improving balance and proprioception.
The Netball Knee program also has some great dynamic balancing drills too!
- Bracing or strapping?
This basically comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer to use a brace and some prefer to strap. Both strapping and bracing help improve the ankle’s proprioception and are good in preventing ankle sprains.
In particular, strapping is effective at reducing recurrent ankle sprains as its stronger and can be adapted to the person depending on how severe the sprain was.
All physios strongly recommend ankle strapping for netball for at least 6 months following an ankle sprain. This is because research has shown that after an ankle sprain, the risk of recurrence increases by at least 50% in the year following the injury. This is why rehabilitating an ankle sprain no matter how bad it is, is essential in preventing long term deficits and recurrence down the track. It also allows you to be able to perform your best and get the most out of your sport.
We recommend a tailored rehab program following an ankle sprain, especially because the risk of recurrence is so high in netball. It is important to see a physiotherapist so they can assess your strength, balance and range in your ankle and legs to ensure you are able to return to your sport and prevent further injuries.
Book in and see us today at Inspired Physiotherapy if you’d like an assessment or advice in preventing ankle sprain throughout this years netball season.