Netball injuries are more common than you might expect. The sport has often been described as a game reliant on rapid acceleration to “break free” from an opponent, and sudden and rapid changes in direction in combination with leaps to receive a pass.
Taking these characteristics into consideration, injuries can result from a number of different causes. Three days prior to the start of the Africa Youth Games (AYG) in 2014, Goal Shooter Madonna Malikongwa’s netball world came to a sudden halt as she suffered a torn crucial ligament.
In a split second, the then promising netballer had moved from a potential starter at the games to a spectator. “It was said I had a partial tear in my left knee anterior ligament,” Malikongwa narrates. She further added that it was not taken seriously as such it was delayed to be attended to.
This would turn to haunt the player once again as she missed the Gaborone 2017 Netball World Youth Cup, a second high profile youth netball event.
“The injury reoccurred in 2016 with a complete tear of the ligament, while preparing for the Netball World Cup qualifiers which I never took part in, as I went for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) surgery,” she narrates.
Malikongwe further highlighted how it has been difficult for her to be selected in significant games both at club and national level. “My performance still needs improvement and I have become a shadow of my injury. I am no longer seen as the netball player but rather as Madonna the injured netball player,” she said sadly.
To go from purpose and centre of attraction of a high profile career, to the anonymity and disappearance to a surgical nightie and a hospital bed is Tumisang Bagidi’s cry. She attained a minor fracture on her left knee as well as partially tearing her ACL on the 24th of June last year.
She said “I missed the African Commonwealth Qualifiers and the Pent Series Tournament twice. I have fully recovered from my injury and hoping to go back to my old self; BNSC covered all my medical bills from orthopaedic surgeon to physiotherapy.”
Addressing the issue of netball injuries, the Managing Director of MOSO clinics, Dr Lesedinyana Odiseng highlighted that netball is a contact sport, as such athletes are prone to injuries which are typical to the sporting code, as players use high speed, decelerate, twist and pivot. “Netballers have three common injuries which are classified as lower limbs injuries which include ankle sprain, Achilles Tendonitis and knee injury,” explained Dr Odiseng.
With the ankle sprain Dr Odiseng said it is whereby the ligaments, muscles and tendons can all be damaged and compromised. As for knee injuries, they occur when the ligament which runs just underneath your knee cap, the patella tendon, breaks or ruptures. Achilles tendonitis is the most dreaded injury as it is the largest tendon in your body, and helps propel one’s body forward.
Dr Odiseng, who is a specialist in Sports and Exercise Medicine (including Musculoskeletal medicine) and Occupational Medicine reiterated on the causes of netball injuries, “Rapid acceleration, sudden pivoting or change in direction, vigorous sprinting and jumping make ankle sprains a common netball injury. Constant jumping and landing, as well as muscular imbalances in the lower limb can lead to patellar tendon pain and tenderness in the knee.”
Furthermore another cause include placing a lot of traction force on the tendon on the back of the ankle and putting pressure on the tendon hence causing it to snap, sometimes with an audible popping sound.
“An injury may need protective padding or strapping, medication or surgery if it is beyond other measures. A physiotherapist is normally essential after the first steps, to take the athlete slowly back to the sport,” added Dr Odiseng.
Dr Odiseng said “There should be sports injury rehabilitation, the goal is to keep the athlete healthy and if injured or sick return the athlete to competition as safely and quick as possible.”
In giving recommendations for reducing and preventing netball injuries, Dr Odiseng emphasized the effectiveness of warm-up, stretching and cool-down as an injury prevention measure is needed, including the benefits of different types of warm-up, cooling-down and stretching practices and optimal duration, frequency and intensity of each component.
“The most important part of your netball uniform is your shoes. Make sure your playing shoes: provide the correct level of arch support; have plenty of cushioning to protect your foot from the impact of hard court surfaces; and that the sole suits the playing surface for outdoor and indoor courts require different materials and grip of the outdoor sole,” he added.
For indoor netball, one is said to look for something like the Dunlop Volley with its fishbone pattern; whereas for outdoor courts, athletes are advised to look for sports shoes where the spacing between the grip on the sole is slightly wider apart, to give you more traction.
Dr Odiseng further advised athletes to work on their fitness level and endurance, adding that netball is an extremely fast paced game, with plenty of repetitive movements such as catching, throwing, and jumping, all of which increases a player’s chances of chronic leg and arm fatigue. “If a player is fit, chances of injuries are slim,” he added.
“Netball injuries are not 100% preventable, but if these little things can be addressed, it does play a huge part in a player’s longevity and enjoyment of the sport,” concluded Dr Odiseng.