Sixty percent of all injuries in netball were knee and lower leg injuries in a recent report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in December 2014. Most of these injuries occur on landing and changing direction, often in a non-contact situation.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is commonly injured, representing approximately 25% of serious injuries annually reported (Netball Australia National Insurance Data). A study of ACL injuries in Australia published in 2011 found netballers were not far behind the football codes when it comes to knee surgery, needing 1085 ACL reconstructions each year, compared with 1162 for those playing AFL. Rehabilitation and recovery from surgery for ACL injury often takes 9-18 months. For a long time we have known that prevention is better than cure, but the search for the holy grail of injury prevention has been, and continues to be, extremely challenging.
As a result of a massive project, Netball Australia has recently released their KNEE program. KNEE stands for Knee injury prevention for Netballers to Enhance performance and Extend play.
The KNEE Program is an on court warm up program performed before training and matches and is designed to enhance movement efficiency and prevent injury. It targets three specific groups of players – junior, recreational and elite level athletes with different exercises tailored to match the predicted capabilities of each group, and it has been designed to educate athletes, coaches and support staff.
The website at http://knee.netball.com.au has the entire programs, information for parents, coaches and players, and even videos of the drills and exercises.
The programs are similar to the PEP (http://smsmf.org/smsf-programs/pep-program), and the FMARC/FIFA 11+ (http://f-marc.com/11plus/home/programs) that have well established research data in support on injury prevention in football (soccer). Teams that performed the “FIFA 11+ ” at least twice a week had 30-50% fewer injured players. The Netball Australia KNEE program is the first of its kind for one of Australia’s most commonly played sports.
Congratulations to Alanna Antcliff (sports physio), and the sports medicine and high performance teams at Netball Australia. RHP Physiotherapy staff continue to work with Netball Australia and other ANZ championship teams’ sports medicine staff in the analysis of movement patterns; athlete assessment and screening; injury statistics and athlete monitoring; and management of serious injuries to better our understanding of how to help netball athletes.