Is netball, in truth, bad for knees and ankles?
You may have heard comments about the risks, or experienced an injury yourself. You might wonder if your child should play. It’s important to make decisions that are based on sound evidence, so let’s take a look at the facts.
Around one million Australians play netball; it’s one of our most popular team sports. There’s something lovely about grandparents who played, watching their grandchildren play. Netball has a long history in our community and is an enjoyable way to stay fit, and connect socially.
What common injuries can occur?
Like all exercise − walking included − injuries can occur. Typical injuries for players aged 15 years and older involve the hips, knees, and ankles. Soft tissue injuries, for example anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and ankle sprains, are the most common, followed by fracture, dislocation, and issues like concussion. Younger netball players are more likely to injure their upper limbs.
One-quarter of major injuries are ACL tears. The ACL is a ligament which sits inside your knee and connects your thigh bone to your shin bone. Its job is to stop your shin from moving too far in front of your thigh and provide rotational stability to your knee. Netball involves a lot of sudden stops and twists which can damage the ACL. Sometimes a ‘pop’ is heard, and your knee can swell, hurt, and become unstable.
Sprained ankles are also common. A player might rapidly change position, land and twist awkwardly and roll their ankle. Or sometimes come down heavily on the foot of another player. Sudden pain, swelling, and an inability to stand comfortably often result.
Because knee and ankle injuries are not uncommon in this sport, Netball Australia has developed “The KNEE Program”. This program aims to prevent injuries by providing expert advice about taking off, landing, decelerating, and changing direction. It explains how to correctly warm up, strengthen legs and core, balance, land, and move. Recommended exercises include stretching your psoas, quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and different parts of your back.
But before you decide this sport isn’t ‘safe,’ think about the good points; playing netball is wonderful for improving physical and mental wellbeing. Being a part of a team provides a way to connect with others and engage socially. Regular exercise also boosts self esteem, improves immune function, and can protect against illness. Simply put, the benefits outweigh the risks.
If you have any questions about netball, ask us. We’re here to help you and your loved ones get the most from your body and your health.