The 6 Most Common Netball Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Originally Published Nov 4, 2021

As one of the most popular sports in Australia, netball attracts players of all ages. However, did you know that Netball injuries are fairly commonplace. In our latest blog, we dive into the most common netball injuries and how to prevent them.

Whether you play weekly with some mates just for fun, you’re on your school’s or local clubs netball team, or you’re hoping to play professionally, one reality of the sport is that injuries are common.

With so much twisting, jumping, and explosive movements, it’s no surprise that you’ll probably experience a netball injury with enough play. So, here we’re going over the 6 most common netball injuries and how to prevent them so we can keep you on the court longer.

Netball Injuries Statistics

Before we get into the most common netball injuries, first, let’s get into the numbers. Here are a few statistics from the Australian Sports Commission:

  • Between 2002 and 2003, 1,129 people across Australia were admitted to hospital for a netball injury.
  • Between 2002 and 2003 in Victoria, 2,316 went to the emergency department for a netball injury.
  • The rate of injury for a netball player is 14 injuries for every 1,000 hours played.

According to another study from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, most netball injuries are not the result of direct contact. The study found that between 66.1 and 71.4 out of 1,000 participants sustained a non-contact netball injury.

Most netball injuries are mild strains and sprains, but the most severe netball injuries are, usually, knee injuries and fractures.

Next, we’re sharing the 6 most common injuries in netball, what causes them, what symptoms they present and how to prevent them.

Is netball bad for your knees?

Before we go over in more detail the most common netball injuries, let’s first answer this frequently asked question, “Is netball bad for your knees?”

The short answer is yes, netball is quite strenuous on your knees. But, we wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s “bad”.

In many ways, playing sports like netball is actually good for your knees. Any physical exercise helps to strengthen and mobilise your joints and is far healthier for every part of your body than living a sedentary lifestyle.

As we’ll see below, half of the most common injuries in netball relate to injuries of the knee. So, considering those numbers, it does seem that netball presents a heightened risk of injuring your knee joint.

In fact, upwards of 25% of netball injuries involve a rupture of the ACL. And anyone who knows a thing or two about this ligament knows that an ACL injury is completley debiliating.

Knee injuries are so prevelant in netball that the Netball Australia KNEE Program has been put in place to help players prevent ACL injuries and other knee injuries within the sport.

However, netball being “bad’ for your knees could be said of almost all sports that require running, jumping, sudden changes in speed and direction and potential collisions.

As we’ll explain below, yes, netball seems to be dangerous for your knees. However, there are ways to treat and prevent most netball knee injuries to help keep your knee joints strong and healthy.

So overall, yes, netball is rough on your knees but we’d always encourage people to play sport, even if there’s a risk of injury. The alternative of a sedentary lifestyle seems to be a far worse fate.

Now, without further ado, let’s go over these common netball injuries and their causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention methods.

Common Injuries in Netball

Ankle Sprains

First on the list is ankle sprains where you twist your ankle causing the ligaments or muscles to tear. With so much running, jumping, and quick direction changes in netball, it makes sense that ankle sprains would be a common netball injury.

Bold: Causes of ankle sprains in netball:

  • Rapid acceleration
  • Sudden pivots or changes in direction
  • Sprinting
  • Jumping
  • Previous ankle sprain
  • Improper athletic shoes
  • Skipping warm-ups
  • Muscular imbalances
  • Being overweight
  • Improper landing position from a jump

What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?

  • First-degree sprain: Little to no swelling, mild stiffness and pain in the ankle joint
  • Second-degree sprain: Some swelling and stiffness, moderate to severe pain, difficulty bearing weight, joint instability
  • Third-degree sprain: Severe pain and swelling, unable to bear weight, instability, loss of joint function

How to prevent ankle sprains:

There are two main ways to prevent ankle sprains, these include

  • Improve any muscular imbalances in the lower limbs
  • Work to strengthen and add mobility overall

Other ankle injuries one might experience from playing netball include:

  • A rolled ankle
  • Broken or fractured ankle
  • Tendinitis in the ankle or Achilles tendon

Other useful resources for ankle related injuries

What is Patellofemoral Syndrome?

Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome or PFP, patellofemoral syndrome comes on gradually over time and is a broad term characterised by pain in the kneecap area.

What are the causes of Patellofemoral Syndrome in netball?

There are many causes of Patellofemoral Syndrome that come from netball. Some of these include:

The main symptom of PFP is the gradual onset of pain directly on or underneath the kneecap.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Cutting or quick turning motions
  • Jumping
  • Sudden pivots or changes in direction
  • Affects females 2 to 10 times more than males
  • Weak quadriceps and hips
  • Poor running form
  • Improper shoes
  • Muscular imbalances
  • Tight lower limb muscles

How to prevent Patellofemoral Syndrome?

Here are a few ways you can prevent Patellofemoral Syndrome:

  • Improve movement efficiency
  • Strengthening throughout the glutes, hamstrings, and hips
  • Improving quadriceps activation
  • Enhancing ankle and hip mobility
  • Enhancing hamstring flexibility

What Is Patellar Tendinitis (Jumper’s Knee)?

The patellar tendon is the tendon that attaches your quadriceps to the shinbone and passes through your knee. Patellar tendinitis, therefore, is the inflammation of this tendon.

What are the causes of Patellar Tendinitis?

  • Constant jumping and landing
  • Lower limb muscular imbalances

What are the symptoms of Patellar Tendinitis?

  • Pain and tenderness in the knee
  • Pain in the knee that arises during play but that doesn’t always subside with rest

How do you prevent patellar tendinitis?

  • Tape the knee to avoid excess movement in the knee joint
  • Exercises to balance the lower limbs
  • Strengthening exercises such as lunges and squats for the lower limbs

ACL Injuries

Your ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is one of the four major ligaments that help to stabilise the knee joint. It attaches the femur to the tibia and runs through the knee. An injury to your ACL can be devasting.

What are the main causes of ACL injuries in netball?

Some causes of ACL injuries during netball include:

  • Forceful twisting on the knee when the foot is planted
  • Landing from a jump in a “knocked knees” position
  • Poor hip and glute muscle strength
  • Weak quadriceps
  • Hamstring imbalances
  • Other poor landing techniques
  • A forceful blow to the knee when the foot is planted

How to Prevent ACL injuries during netball?

Some prevention techniques can include:

  • Improve dynamic joint stability
  • Improve movement efficiency
  • Improve neuromuscular control
  • Improve landing technique, particularly avoiding the “knocked knees” position when landing
  • Increase strength in glutes and hamstrings
  • Balance the hamstring to quadriceps strength ratio
  • Reduce weight-bearing load on the ACL and knee joint

Other possible netball injuries of the knee include:

  • Knee bursitis
  • Inflammation of the knee joint
  • Dislocated kneecaps
  • Arthritis of the knee

Other useful resources for ACL injuries

Shin Splints

Shin splints are a repetitive stress injury that tends to come on gradually. They are typically caused by poor form while running and weak shin muscles, manifesting as pain near the tibia (shin) during play that continues even after the game.

How to Prevent Shin Splints:

  • Shin exercises that help strengthen the muscles that pull your foot into a flexed position

Other useful resources for Shin Splints

What is Netball Finger Injury

Another common netball injury is netball finger injuries. Finger injuries in netball include finger sprains, thumb sprains, hand and finger fractures and jarred fingers.

Symptoms of Finger Injuries in Netball:

What are the symptoms of finger injuries during netball?

  • Initial pain
  • Swelling of the injured joint
  • Restricted movement of the affected finger

Causes of Finger Injuries in Netball

Most netball finger injury occurrences involve the ball or another player colliding with a finger at an unfortunate angle.

Technically speaking, finger injuries in netball are caused when the finger is bent too far or overstretched to the point that it causes damage to the ligaments in your hand.

How to Prevent Finger Injuries in Netball

It’s difficult to altogether prevent finger injuries while playing a sport like netball. However, hand guards and other protective equipment may help.

Like all the other common netball injury prevention methods, the best way to prevent netball finger injuries is to:

  • Always warm up, including warming up your hands and fingers
  • Resting when you jam your finger, even if it seems like nothing
  • Staying hydrated
  • Wearing the proper gear

What are ways to prevent injuries during Netball

As you examine these common netball injuries, you might start to notice a few common themes between the causes of these injuries. Prevention, therefore, is all about stopping these causes from happening before they start.

We already went over prevention techniques for each individual netball injury, but these are the best ways to prevent netball injuries in a general sense.

  • Engage in cross-training and physical fitness training before playing netball
  • Always warm-up, cool-down, and focus on both flexibility and strength
  • Perform balancing techniques
  • Be aware of muscle imbalances and perform exercises to correct them
  • Learn proper passing, catching, and landing techniques
  • Wear protective equipment during play
  • Seek professional advice on proper athletic shoes
  • Consider preventative ankle tape or braces

Physiotherapy to Prevent Netball Injuries

Now, that you understand what to strengthen or stretch to help prevent netball injuries, you’re probably wondering what exercises can actually help you reach that goal. That’s where a physiotherapist comes in.

When you see a physio, they’ll be able to quickly assess your strengths and weaknesses to create a personalised exercise plan to help you prevent netball injuries as best you can. Without one, you’ll likely be shooting in the dark (get it?).

Especially when it comes to your knee joints and potential ACL injuries, it’s important to work with a professional to deal with these common netball injuries.

Call us today to meet with one of our friendly physiotherapists at a convenient clinic near you. Or use our mobile physio services that can come straight to you. Potential injuries shouldn’t stop you from playing netball. Let’s work together to prevent netball injuries as much as possible.

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The information provided on this blog is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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