Now that the netball season is up and running, it may be time to check that your feet and shoes are up and running too!
While netball is considered a non contact sport it is surprising how many injuries can occur when playing, with a large number of these occurring in the foot and ankle. The constant demands on the court with pivoting, jumping, quick stop and starts can lead to both acute and chronic lower limb injuries.
ANKLE SPRAINS - which occur with overstretching of a ligament (which connects bone to bone) and can sometimes be severe enough that a fragment of bone tears away with the ligament. It is an acute injury, but some foot types are more prone to sprains then others. It is essential after these injuries proper rehabilitation occurs to regain strength in the area.
ACHILLES TENDINOPATHIES - This condition tends to be a progressive problem with pain and thickening of the tendon behind the ankle. Pain can be noticed when getting out of bed, running or climbing stairs. Tightness in the calf muscle, training errors or poor foot position are major factors in its development and if not treated early can become a chronic problem or lead to a tear.
BURSITIS - Inflammation of a bursa (fluid filled sac which helps minimise friction) can become painful, swollen and hot. Bursitis of the forefoot can be associated with foot shape and shoe cushioning along with the increased pressure from pivoting and being up on the toes when playing. It can also occur behind the heel with tight footwear or alongside achilles tendinopathies.
PLANTAR FASCIITIS - This develops with micro tears of the plantar fascia (the thick fibrous band connecting from heel to toes). Pain can be experienced at the heel or through the middle of the fascia with many reporting the pain worst with the first steps of the day or after resting. It can be associated with high impact forces and high or low arches.
SHIN SPLINTS - Pain with this condition occurs along the muscle at the front of the lower leg and can progressively become worse as the game goes on. It is mainly associated with overuse due to overtraining, but can be exacerbated by poor foot and leg biomechanics and incorrect footwear.
KNEE INJURIES - The repetitive jumping and landing in netball coupled with poor mechanics can lead to problems such as patellofemoral syndrome, patella tendinitis and anterior cruciate ligament sprain.
SKIN AND NAIL - Problems such as blisters, calluses and ingrown toenails can all occur and if not correctly managed may keep you unnecessarily off the court.
Selecting the correct shoe is key in preventing injury...
Here is a checklist of what to look for when buying shoes:
- Choose shoes specific for netball as they have been created to cope with the demands of the sport. Unlike running shoes, netball shoes are designed for side to side movement, are closer to the ground to prevent ankle sprains and their soles have a more durable rubber outsole to provide traction. The outsoles can also vary dependent on whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor netball courts (wider spacing for outdoor and narrower spacing for indoor courts)
- Given the movement required in netball, make sure the shoe fits correctly allowing 1cm of space from the longest toe (and that's not always your big toe!). This helps prevent nail damage and minimise the chance of blsiters. It is best to have someone measure your feet properly.
- Try on shoes with the same socks you would play in.
- Ensure shoes do not become excessively worn - check for heavy wear areas on the outsole, tears or holes in the upper or compression lines on the midsole.
- Firm heel counter: prevents excessive rearfoot movement which is especially important in those with achilles tendon issues.
- Firm shank: as the main flexion point in a foot is our toes, this is where the shoe should also bend. Test this by pushing up the shoe at the heel and forefoot and seeing where it bends. A shoe that is too flexible compromises its stability and makes the foot prone to injury.
- Breathable material: Leather or combination leather upper is suitable to minimise the growth of fungus or bacteria which thrive in moist, warm environments. Regularly air shoes and wear fresh socks, some socks (such as bamboo) can help to wick moisture away too.
- Last shape and arch height are also important factors but if the incorrect type is selected this can produce injury.
For some expert advice on selecting suitable shoes, the staff at Athlete's Foot Wollongong or Shellharbour would be more then happy to help. No two feet are the same and not all shoes are made for all feet, therefore having your feet assessed and measured beforehand ensures the staff can help select the correct shoe for you.
A biomechanical assessent by one of our friendly podiatrists can help to pinpoint and address any issues in the lower limb that may predispose you to injury. If you are already experiencing pain then it is definitely time to contact us to book in for an appointment.