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Netball-specific injury prevention programme launched

The number of devastating knee injuries suffered by netballers could be reduced four-fold through Netball New Zealand’s new injury prevention programme, NetballSmart.

Netball New Zealand’s injury prevention consultant and former Silver Ferns physiotherapist Sharon Kearney has worked with ACC to develop a netball-specific warm-up programme, which focuses on enhancing performance and preventing injury.

Netball has one of the highest risk rates of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in New Zealand sport. Around 400 Netball players in New Zealand have ACL reconstruction surgery each year; in the year to June 2016, ACC dealt with 3982 new knee injury cases from Netball alone.

In an effort to combat the growing number of injuries, as the game becomes increasingly faster and more physical, Netball New Zealand aims to “change the culture” of how netballers warm up before training and competition.

Kearney says the new NetballSmart Dynamic Warm-up has evolved from the world-acclaimed FIFA 11+ injury prevention programme, a set of 15 conditioning exercises created for footballers.

“We have stuck to the four key components of the FIFA 11+ warm-up - strengthening, running, dynamic preparation and sport-specific preparation - and adapted it for Netball,” she says.

More emphasis has been placed on jumping and landing, especially on one foot, and a turning component added to make the programme more relevant to Netball. The warm-up has been introduced into all Netball New Zealand coaching resources, starting with a modified version at the beginners level for five and six-year-olds.

Netball Smart

“We want to develop that culture over the years, so by the time they reach that high ACL rate - which starts evolving when girls are 15 - they are doing the warm-up 2-3 times a week. The evidence is out there that it could decrease the ACL injury rate four-fold,” she says.

“We especially want to tackle 11 and 12-year-olds so they know how to land, and jump, squat and lunge properly, with a little bit more strength behind them.”

Kearney says the biggest challenge in turning the tide is educating all Netball coaches in NetballSmart.

“Our way to improve adherence is by making it part of our culture; that this is what a Netball warm-up looks like and that we just do it,” Kearney says.

As well as resources and videos showing how to do the warm-up at different levels of Netball experience, Netball New Zealand will hold injury prevention workshops throughout the country over the next six months leading into the 2017 Netball season.

Kearney has also been presenting the NetballSmart Dynamic Warm-up programme at sports medicine conferences, so physiotherapists and other sports specialists understand the benefits of the warm-up.