Netball might not be quite as rough and tumble as basketball and other high-impact sports, but that doesn't mean that this fast-paced sport doesn't take a toll on the body of its players. The sharp twisting and thrusting motions required to make passes and shots can place the joints of the legs and ankles under tremendous strain, often leading to nagging repetitive strain injuries and problems with the tendons and ligaments of the lower limbs.
Fortunately, sports podiatrists are well acquainted with the range of injuries that can result from a intense game of netball and can offer a range of treatments to help reduce pain, speed healing times and minimise the chances of permanent injury. Here are ways physiotherapists can treat commonly-suffered netball injuries.
What are ankle sprains?
An injury often sustained when pivoting to make a shot or landing after making one, ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that give the ankle strength and flexibility become overworked and damaged. This damage may be limited to a simple hyperextension, but more severe ankle sprains can involve tears in one or more of the ligaments. Common symptoms of ankle sprains include pain, tenderness and bruising around the affected ankle, as well as loss of strength and stability which can become permanent without effective treatment.
How can sports podiatrists treat ankle sprains?
To treat an ankle sprain, a sports podiatrist will first assess the scale of the damage, using X-rays and other imaging devices to diagnose more serious injuries. Once the scale of the damage is assessed, treatment can begin:
- Pain relief: Oral, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are generally offered to reduce pain and swelling, while more severe pain can be treated with corticosteroid injections. Ice packs and compression bandages can also help, while some physiotherapists offer supplemental treatments such as ultrasound therapy and acupuncture.
- Manual therapy: Deep tissue massage and other forms of manual therapy, such as joint manipulation, can help ensure the ankle heals in the correct position and helps promote blood flow to the injury which can speed healing.
- Braces and casts: Your physiotherapist may also recommend fitting an immobilising brace, boot or plaster cast to the damaged ankle. This helps prevent accidental movements which can slow healing times and damage newly-healed structures in the ankle. Night braces can be used to prevent movement while sleeping.
- Rebuilding exercises: Once pain has subsided and the ankle has healed sufficiently, your physiotherapist will work through a range of strengthening and flexibility exercises aimed at gradually returning function to the injured ankle. These exercises also help to ensure that the damaged ligament(s) heal in the correct positions and reduce the likelihood of chronic ankle instability. Exercises are designed to be low-intensity and low-impact to avoid aggravating the newly-healed ankle.