Sprained ankles are one of the most frustrating things for a netball player. Most netballers will have experienced an ankle injury at some stage whilst playing. Unfortunately many people have had multiple! This makes sense, as we know Ankle sprains account for approximately 30% of all netball injuries. But there are some helpful tips to minimise your risk. Read on for some education on ankle sprains in netball and how we can help prevent them!
How does netball affect the feet and ankles?
Netball is a fast change of direction sport. This means there are a lot of high speed side to side movements and stop/start motions. A netball player repeats these same movement patterns hundreds of times over the duration of a game, and unfortunately it only takes one poor landing to cause an ankle injury. It is also very fatiguing for the muscles of your foot and ankle as they are constantly trying to support you!
There can be a number of factors that can increase your risk of an ankle injury on the netball court. These include:
Previous history of ankle injury
- Wearing running over netball shoes, or worn out shoes due for replacement
- Poor ankle strength and fatigue over a game
- Wet or deteriorated court surfaces
Common ankle injuries in netball
The most common ankle injury we see from netball is a lateral ankle sprain. These occur when a player rolls over the outside of their ankle and stretches the ankle ligaments. The most common ligament damaged is called the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), however there are many potential sites of injury. Lateral ankle sprains can range from mild stretching to complete ligament tears and even bone fractures.
Another common injury from netball is peroneal tendinopathy which affects the outside of your foot/ankle. A tendinopathy is generally an overuse injury of a tendon which causes inflammation and pain. Peroneal injury is a common cause of pain in change of direction sports like netball where a player is putting the tendon under repeated stress from sideways movement. It can also be damaged when you roll your ankle excessively.
Preventing ankle injuries in netball
Neuromuscular training is one of the best ways to prevent an ankle injury in netball. It’s all about developing strength in the muscles that control important netball movements. Practicing single leg balance, hopping side to side, and landing exercises are a great way to train your important netball muscles. Training these movements helps the body correct a poor landing or motion before you get injured. It also increases how long it will take for these muscles to fatigue, meaning they will help protect you for longer!
Taping and bracing can be helpful in preventing an ankle injury, especially if you have had an ankle sprain in the past. They help improve your confidence in the ankle so you can play with less apprehension. Both will give give you a bit of feedback when playing and can help prevent a worse injury from occurring. It is important to remember that tape does lose it’s support after about 30 minutes of intense exercise, so reapplying is sometimes necessary. Previous ankle injuries puts you at a much higher risk of doing another sprain, especially if you have not rehabilitated it properly! This is where taping or a brace can be very helpful.
Another prevention tip is wearing appropriate shoes! Wearing specially designed netball shoes provides more stability through the outside of the shoe to help control sideways motion. Running shoes are designed for forward movement on flat surfaces and allow much more movement when put under change of direction stress. It is also important to replace your shoes before they wear out too badly. Over time you lose the support in the shoe and also the non-slip outer sole which increases your risk of injury.
How a Podiatrist treats ankle injuries in netball
Treating ankle injuries is important to help minimise your pain, get you back to netball and reduce your risk of reoccurring injury. Initially after an injury, use the RICE principle (rest, ice compression and elevation). Try to walk as soon as possible as this immediately gets you back on your rehab journey faster.
A Podiatrist will assess your ankle to determine what type of injury has occurred and the best management for you. Your Podiatrist will introduce strength and mobility exercises to get your ankle moving better with less pain and help you return to netball. They can tape your ankle for support and ensure no excessive movement occurs whilst healing. Mobilisation and massage through sore muscles can be helpful to relieve pain and tightness.