How to Treat Common Netball Injuries

Female netball team celebrating win on netball court

Netball is played by more than 20 million people across the world. As with all sports, it comes with a range of safety risks, and netball injuries can be common. Many of the types of netball injuries that players suffer are similar to those caused by basketball, football, rugby, and cricket, and many of the most common netball injuries are preventable and easily treatable with access to the right products, including a well-stocked sports first aid kit

Check out some of our other blog articles providing athletes and coaches with advice on how to prevent and treat sports injuries and keep your sports teams safe:

Female netball teams throwing ball on netball court

As a leading supplier of first aid, trauma, tape, and therapy products tailored to the sports sector, Sterosport is committed to supporting athletes, coaches, and sports clubs with the equipment, knowledge, and skills required to keep players and athletes safe. Netballers are no exception. 
This article will cover some of the major safety risks in netball, and discuss the most common injuries in netball. We’ll offer guidance on how to treat netball injuries at training, informal, and competitive levels, and ensure you know what to do in the event of a medical emergency.

Safety Risks in Netball

Anyone who’s played netball will understand one of the main causes of safety risks during play is the nature of the game itself. We discuss how to prevent common netball injuries on our blog in more detail, but it’s important to get an idea of how the demands of the sport can contribute to netball injuries so you can take steps to prevent them.

Physical Demands

Netball is a physically demanding sport. In order to perform at their peak, players remain active throughout a match, performing repetitive jumps, passes, twisting, and pivoting actions continuously during play. For this reason, overuse injuries are some of the most common netball injuries reported by players.  

The Netball Itself

In addition to the active nature of a netball game, the sheer weight and size of a standardised netball present a safety risk and can cause a netball injury at any time during a match or training session. At an average weight of 400-450g, throwing and catching the ball, often at high speeds, can cause netball finger injuries or damage to the wrist joint and lower arm. 

And, in general, an accidental collision with a netball is likely to cause injury, especially if it impacts the head. This can lead to serious concussions and extended periods away from the court in recovery.

Passes, Jumps, and Landings

Due to the rules of the game, netball players can’t dribble with the ball to move it up and down the court. Instead, players often make fast-paced passes at length to their teammates. Catching a ball from a long, powerful pass over opponents often requires the player to make high, energetic jumps and landings to succeed. Unsafe landings during play are a common cause of netball knee injuries. They can even cause serious trauma damage to the knee joint such as ACL injuries in netball players or a netball ankle injury that will require immediate treatment and rehabilitation at the least.

Collisions, Trips and Falls

According to netball injuries statistics, collisions and falls on the court are some of the main causes of netball injuries, especially in professional tournaments. 

Collisions can occur between teammates, opposing team members, the netball itself, as well as colliding with staff on the edge of the court and even onlookers. Trips and falls are often caused by unsafe ground being played on, such as puddles or trip hazards on the court. A player’s own poor technique or ill-fitting footwear can also cause a trip and fall, as well as feet being accidentally caught on other players or equipment. Netball is a fast-paced game, so accidents that lead to a netball injury can happen at any time.

The severity of netball injuries caused by collisions or falls during games varies, but in serious cases, players can suffer a concussion, be knocked unconscious, fracture or break bones, tear ligaments, suffer trauma wounds, or dislocate joints, as well as more easily treatable bruising, and swelling.

Measures You Can Take to Prevent Most Common Netball Injuries

A coach’s priority should always be to keep their team safe. There are many preventative measures and precautions that netball teams should incorporate into their training and competing routines to prevent netball injuries as much as possible. 

The essential steps to take are:

  • Warming up and cooling down thoroughly.
  • Regular training and strengthening to maintain optimal levels of fitness.
  • Ensuring you are playing in a safe environment.
  • Coaching the safest techniques, focusing on safe jumping and landing.
  • Avoiding all contact during play.
  • Keeping players cool and well-hydrated.
  • Wearing suncream and hats in hot, sunny conditions.
  • Providing appropriate safety gear, such as high-quality, well-fitting supportive footwear and protective taping and strapping to protect joints.
  • Modifying the rules of play and adjusting equipment for junior teams and minors.

What are the most common netball injuries and how do you treat them?

According to International Netball Federation (INF)’s latest netball injuries statistics, players predominantly report injuries to their lower limbs, usually the ankle, with ligament sprains also affecting netball players.

Overall, the 6 most common netball injuries are:

  • A netball finger injury, and to the wrist joint,
  • A netball knee injury,
  • A netball ankle injury,
  • Bruises and grazes,
  • Sprains and fractures,
  • A netball ACL injury (usually a less severe ligament strain rather than a serious ACL tear).

In netball, common injuries caused during play can be divided between the standard injury categories of trauma injuries and overuse injuries. Fortunately, the more avoidable and treatable overuse injuries in netball are more common than the more serious trauma injuries overall.

Injury Response

A quick response is essential to reducing the impact of netball injuries and treatment should be provided in a safe environment away from the court. In general, in the event of a netball injury, follow these steps to maintain player safety:

  • An injured or ill player should receive attention from a qualified first aider. (Check out our netball first aid qualification blog for more information)

Ensure the injured player is fully rested and rehabilitated as necessary before returning to play. (The Sterosport Injury Rehab Network offers professional support to injured athletes across the country).

Overcoming the Most Common Netball Injuries

All sports present risk, which is often unpredictable. In netball, common injuries will vary depending on the day, team, fitness level of players, and environment. 

Netball’s governing body, the INF, recommends adopting the following approach to respond to most netball injury incidences. These approaches are most effective for managing overuse injuries, falls, and collisions that have caused soft tissue damage such as ligament sprains, muscle strains, bumps, bruising, and inflamed joints.

In the first instance, a qualified first aider should use the ‘RICE’ method:

  • Rest

Ensure the player is removed from active play in the game and the injured area is rested, with movement limited as much as possible.

  • Ice

Ice the area continuously, using instant ice packs or medical freeze spray to cool and reduce blood flow to the area.

  • Compress

Apply underwrap to protect the exposed skin, and then wrap a bandage or tape around such as EAB, a cohesive bandage, or a hand-tearable compression bandage to provide consistent, even compression to reduce the swelling in the affected tissue.

  • Elevate

If possible, elevate the limb above the chest right to slow blood flow to the area for an extended period of time.
Always seek medical attention from a professional sports physiotherapist to assess the extent of the netball injury and decide on the best treatment to promote recovery.

A patient working with a physiotherapists arm

After any netball injury, the casualty and their supporting staff, including the physio, first aider, and coach should implement the ‘NO HARM’ injury management approach for at least the first 48-72 hours after a soft tissue injury to ensure a successful recovery.

NO HARM refers to:

  • No Heat

Applying heat to an injured area increases blood flow and swelling in the area. Casualties should avoid hot showers and baths and not use heat packs.

  • No Alcohol 

Alcohol consumption can mask pain symptoms and slows healing by increasing blood flow and inflammation. 

  • No Running

The patient must continue to rest and limit physical exertion, especially vigorous activities such as running, which could worsen the injury.

  • No Massage

Avoid massaging the injured tissue for at least the first 72 hours, it will increase swelling and slow down the healing process.

Responding to Serious Trauma Netball Injuries

In the event of a more serious trauma injury, strict and immediate emergency action is essential. Your netball team’s appointed first aider will be trained in first aid to a certain extent, but almost all severe trauma injuries require professional attention as soon as possible. 

Your immediate response should be to make the casualty comfortable and keep them safe until paramedics arrive. 

In the event of a serious injury including a broken or fractured bone, a dislocated joint, serious cuts or wounds and heavy bleeding, or a suspected head injury, it’s important to quickly consider whether you need to do the following:

  • Alert the appointed first aider and dial 999 as soon as you can if a player is severely injured.
  • Assess whether the casualty is in shock. Protect them by keeping them warm with a foil blanket and fabric blanket. Shelter them with an umbrella if it is raining.
  • Keep the casualty still and do not move them from the injury site. Trying to move someone with a broken bone can make the injury worse.

Report details about the accident in your accident report book if the casualty is being treated on site.

Treating Some of the Most Common Injuries in Netball

Wrist, Hand and Finger Injuries in Netball

The throwing and catching required during play can lead to an unfortunately painful netball injury. Finger, hand and wrist damage are usually caused by sharp bending back of the joints when catching a ball, or players falling and putting their hands out to break a fall. The over extension of the finger joints in particular can be very painful and affect players’ performance. 

If a finger or the wrist has been bent too far back and is presenting pain symptoms, first use the RICE method and take time to assess the extent of the damage. In the event of a broken finger or wrist, call 999 or take the casualty to A&E for immediate care.
However, the most wrist and finger injuries in netball can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and gentle support while the joint heals. Many netball players use sports tape and strappings such as zinc oxide tape to support and protect their finger joints, holding the digits in a rigid position either to prevent overextension causing a netball finger injury in the first place, or to support an injured hand when returning to play.

Wrist physiotherapy tape

Zinc oxide tape and cohesive bandages are also an effective way to support and protect a netball wrist injury, and wrist taping is practised frequently across many sports. We cover how to tape your wrist for football on our blog, and netball players can also use these techniques to protect their wrists and lower arms when playing at a competitive level.

Want to improve your taping skills? We offer online sports taping courses that offer expert guidance on the safest ways to protect players from injury.For more information about different sports tapes and their many uses, check out our blog.

Netball Knee Injuries

Taking part in any sport that requires players to run and jump can result in a knee injury. Netball is no different. Knee injuries in netball can vary from bruising and grazes from taking a fall, or result in more serious damage such as an ACL injury. Netball players who report knee pain and misalignment in the joint should be assessed by a professional to determine if it is a netball ACL injury. This is classed as a serious trauma injury that requires professional rehabilitation and physiotherapy, and sometimes even surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament. We cover everything you need to know about how to spot and treat an ACL tear on our blog.

A pulled hamstring or groin strain can also contribute to complaints of a painful leg or knee injury. Netball players who suffer pulled or strained muscles during a game or training session should be treated with the RICE method and monitored carefully when returning to physical activity. Protecting the knee joint with healthy connective leg muscles is essential to optimal performance and player safety. We offer guidance on how to treat a pulled hamstring, and how to treat a groin strain on our blog so you can take care of your netball team with the proper knowledge.

Shin and Ankle Injuries in Netball

Tripping, falling, or landing a jump for the ball poorly is a common cause of a netball ankle injury, or painful shin splints. 
The severity of damage to an ankle can vary between a serious break or fracture of the interior bones that support a player’s body weight, to the less serious injury of a sprained or twisted ankle. A first aider or medical professional should always carefully assess any netball ankle injury to ensure the correct treatment is provided. In general the player should be removed from play and the RICE method should be adopted. We go through all the stages of how to treat a sprained ankle on our blog. The ankle is an essential and vulnerable joint, so if you’re in any doubt about treatment, call 999 or take the casualty to A&E.

Ankle joint pain

Concussion in Netball

A concussion is generally caused by a sharp knock to the head. In netball, this can happen through a trip, slip, and fall, a collision with another player on the court, or the ball coming into direct contact with the head. This sudden impact to the skull often results in concussion, where the brain is shaken inside the head. This can lead to a ‘bruise’ on the brain, and all instances of possible concussion must be taken very seriously as there is a risk of brain damage.

In the event of any head-related netball injury, a ‘recognise and remove’ approach should be adopted to try and spot symptoms of concussion as soon as possible. 

Look out for the following signs of concussion in a player:

  • They have been knocked out but have now woken up.
  • They are bleeding from the nose or ears.
  • They have vomited (been sick) since the impact to the head.
  • They are finding it difficult to stay awake.
  • They are presenting problems with their recall and memory.
  • They are complaining of a headache that does not go away.
  • They are disorientated, confused, and/or behaving strangely.

A concussion must be treated immediately by a trained medical professional. Visit A&E if you suspect a player has a concussion, or call 111 if you are not sure. Call 999 if the player is unconscious, unresponsive, bleeding from the nose or ears, vomiting, finding it difficult to remain awake, or is behaving strangely. 
It’s essential to remember that symptoms of concussion usually start within 24 hours but sometimes may not appear for up to three weeks since the event of the injury and impact to the head. This is why a netball player who may be suffering from a concussion is removed from play, and is rested, well-hydrated and monitored continuously by a professional. You can find out more concussion information on the NHS website.

Supporting Your Netball Players During Recovery from Injury

Steropsort is here to support you and your players to prevent, treat and recover from netball injuries. 

Whether you’re working to treat common overuse injuries or promote recovery from a serious trauma injury that requires surgery and long-term rehabilitation, our Injury Rehab Network can support you. Our expert knowledge and resources can empower you to take care of your injured netball players and assist you in safely returning them to the game as soon as possible.

Partner with Sterosport to access our Injury Rehab Network and its many benefits. It provides an accessible source of continuous professional development for medics, physiotherapists, coaches, trainers, and players to learn skills and improve recovery rates and performance levels with dedicated support. 

For more information on how we can support you and your netball team, contact Andrew Watson at andrew@steroplast.co.uk or call 0161 902 3030.

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