How Can Common Netball Injuries be Prevented?

netball team huddling

Safety Risks in Netball

Netball, as popular as it is across the world, might not be considered the most dangerous sport. However, it comes with plenty of safety risks, even when compared with more high-contact, fast-paced and athletic disciplines. Netball injury prevention is essential to promoting and running the sport safely and fairly and should be taken seriously at all times.

Netball players are highly active throughout a match and through training, as the game requires them to perform continuous, repetitive twisting and pivoting movements, as well as throwing, catching, and landing huge jumps for the ball.

two netball players mid air netball

Because of this, the main causes of netball injuries are landing, collisions, and falls, as well as overuse injuries caused by repetitive motion and poor technique. The most common areas of the body that suffer injury through netball are the upper and lower legs, ankles, and feet due to the physicality of the sport. Similarly to football and rugby players, netballers also suffer ligament strains.

In addition to the physical demands of netball increasing the likelihood of injury, the more general risks of playing a ball sport amongst a group of other people present safety risks to netball players, as well as supporting staff, coaches, and even onlookers.

netball close up 1

Standardised netballs weigh between 400-450g and can be thrown (and dropped) at high speed. This alone presents the risk of head injury, usually resulting in minor to serious concussions, or more serious damage, all of which should be taken seriously and treated with extreme caution. Other causes of head injury include slips, trips, and falls on the court, as well as a direct collision between players, staff, or onlookers. 
This article will cover the best practices for netball injury prevention, and go through the best methods to put in place to minimise the safety risks around netball, keep your teams safe, and make sure everyone can bring their A-game on the court for every match.

How To Prevent Netball Injuries

Minimising Contact

The International Netball Federation (INF) stipulates in the Rules of Netball that, at all times, netball should be played as a no-contact sport. The rules around contact in netball state that:

No player may contact an opponent either accidentally or deliberately in such a way that interferes with the play of that opponent or causes contact to occur. In an effort to attack or defend or to play the ball a player shall not:

  • Move into the path of an opponent who is committed to a particular landing space
  • Position so closely to an opponent that the player is unable to move without contacting
  • Push, trip, hold or lean on an opponent or use other forms of physical contact
  • Place a hand or hands on a ball held by an opponent
  • Knock or remove the ball from the possession of an opponent
  • While holding the ball push it into an opponent

Minimising contact during a netball match is an important part of how to prevent netball injuries, ensuring player safety as well as playing fair and abiding by the rules. Netball coaches should ensure that their teams know the rules and play by them consistently. 

For competitive matches and tournaments, the presence of accredited umpires also helps to decrease the risk of injury caused by contact or foul play.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

As with all sports and physical activity, preparing your muscles and joints for the physical demands of exercise is essential. Before all matches and training sessions, completing a well-programmed and thorough warm-up routine is crucial to netball injury prevention. This includes stretching before and after play and following a cool-down routine. 

Multiple studies have found that not warming up before a game increases the risk of injury during a netball game significantly. This is especially true for netball players who have a history of injury or are still recovering. 

A good warm-up routine should include:

  • Muscle stretching, focusing on the quads and hamstrings at the back of your upper legs, is especially important for netballers.
  • Flexing your ankle tendons, wrists, and hip joints to increase mobility will help with flexiblity and balance, and stretch out some of the body parts most impacted during play. 
  • Incorporating light cardio work to increase blood flow and warm up your muscles and joints.
  • Practising passes and goal throws to stretch out the arms, shoulders, and upper torso.

Physical Preparation and Honing Technique

All athletes must undergo training before competition to ensure their bodies are fit and ready to play. Optimal physical fitness is an important part of netball injury prevention, as well as learning and perfecting the safest techniques for play. 

Netball players should undergo fitness programs to develop their aerobic fitness, strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. This will help with the game’s physical demands, and good physical health helps protect your body from injury in general and speed up the recovery process.

Playing with safe technique is a huge part of how to prevent netball injuries, especially when it comes to safe jumps and landings. Coaches should prioritise teaching their netball teams the safest ways to jump and land with soft knees, protecting their knee caps and stopping their ankles from twisting or bending. These techniques, as well as safe and accurate ball-passing, are crucial for netball injury prevention and should be practised and perfected during all training sessions.

In the event of an injury, whether during training or a competitive match, coaches should review where any safe practices were not followed and give feedback to their players so everyone can learn for the future and minimise the risk of similar injuries occurring again.

Wearing the Right Gear

A key part of netball injury prevention is ensuring netball players wear suitable gear to protect themselves from the game’s physical demands. 

Wearing suitable, high-quality shoes for netball is essential. Choose specially designed sports shoes with strong arch supports, shock-absorbing cushioning to protect from impact from jumping, and secure support for the heel and ankle joint when running, crouching, jumping, and landing. A good pair of sports socks will also improve the comfort and protection of your feet.
Some netball players benefit from taping and strapping to support vulnerable joints such as their wrists, knee joints and ankles. Players recovering from previous injuries should wear more protective supports such as compression bandages, ankle sleeves, or knee supports.

Steroban cohesive 1

Kinesio Tape is also an effective way to support and protect the upper body from over-extending or twisting out of alignment.

Maintain a Safe Environment for Play

Netball can be played indoors or outdoors, depending on weather conditions. Before all training sessions and netball games, the netball court should be walked over thoroughly to ensure it is clear and safe for play.

This includes: 

  • Removing any stones, branches, or other trip hazards. 
  • Clearing all court areas from puddles or wet patches reduces the risk of slips and falls. 
  • Ensuring there is adequate run-off space around the perimeter of the court and checking that there are no hazards around the edges.
  • Netball goalposts and rings should be inspected, ensuring that they are adequately padded and secured firmly to the ground with no part posing a tripping risk.
empty netball court

In the event of extreme weather, either hot, wet, windy, cold, or slippery, play should be discouraged, and any competitive matches postponed if there is no safe indoor alternative court to play on.

First Aiders and First Aid Kits

It’s a legal requirement to ensure qualified first aid personnel and well-stocked netball first aid kits are available at all times. Choose between our premium sports first aid kit, junior sports team first aid kit, or sports medical kit to best serve the first aid needs of your team. We cover netball first aid kits requirements, essential netball first aid kit contents and first aid qualification requirements on our blog so you can ensure you are prepared.

We also recommend keeping extra ice packs and medical freeze spray on hand and ensuring a stretcher is available during tournaments.

Additional Safety Tips for Netball Injury Prevention

  • Keep all netball players and sideline staff hydrated. Ensure everyone drinks water before, during, and after play.
  • Protect your skin. When playing outdoors, ensure everyone wears broad-spectrum sunscreen and a hat. This will also help with maintaining a safe body temperature and reduce the risk of heat exhaustion.
  • Modify the rules and equipment for minors. This includes reducing the gameplay to less than an hour, offering more breaks during a match, and lowering the netball goal rings for younger age groups.

Netball Injury Prevention Practices at Professional Level

The International Netball Federation (INF) offer guidance on maintaining peak fitness and health for elite-level and professional netball teams attending competitive tournaments.  

World Netball’s Foundation Coaching Manual recommends netball players practice water immersion (ideally ice baths for between 5-10 minutes) routines to aid in recovery from overuse injuries and fatigue during tournaments where they are participating in competitive games for long periods and for multiple days. 

The INF also advises coaches to ensure players achieve a high quality of sleep. A well-structured sleep program can improve the body’s repair processes when combined with a good diet. 

The most effective sleep quality techniques include:

  • Sleeping in a well-ventilated room rather than an air-conditioned one.
  • Regulating a consistent body temperature and room temperature during sleep.
  • Taking a cool shower after a hot bath or shower ahead of sleep can improve the body’s capacity to recover from exercise overnight.

Your Netball First Aid Kit

While the various measures to take for netball injury prevention above are essential parts of maintaining safety during netball matches and training sessions, injuries can still happen despite our best efforts. In the event of an injury, having easy access to a well-stocked netball first aid kit can significantly improve the recovery of a wide range of netball injuries. 

All netball first aid kits, like our professional-grade sports first aid kit, should contain the following pieces of first aid equipment to be able to treat injuries and manage recovery:

We cover the importance of netball first aid kits and their essential contents in more detail on our blog.

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