Training

How Can I Strengthen My Ankle For Netball?

Written by Simon Cushman


How To Strengthen My Ankle For Netball


Ankle injuries are the most common injuries suffered by netball players, closely followed by the knee (Singh et al., 2013). This is due to the repeated stress and overload from jumping, sprinting and decelerating within the one and a half step rule and most importantly, landing; often while looking at the ball and colliding with other players (Gamble, 2011).

 

Due to the demands of the sport, players need to have great stability in their ankles, knees and hips as well as great balance and proprioception to be able to land in an uncompromising position. Research has shown that high-performance netball players reportedly suffer from knee valgus (the knee alignment shifting inwards) when landing on one leg (Stuelcken et al., 2012) which can cause a great amount of pressure through the lower limb and is a likely cause of ACL injury.


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However, the intensity of training towards the goal of playing in full competition should gradually increase through phases to ensure the ankle structure is not being over-trained, overused and fatigued (Gamble, 2011).

 

If too much stress is put on the lower limb (particularly when an athlete is more powerful and faster) without building up to it, there is a greater chance of injury as the muscles won’t function at their best (Hopper et al., 1995). This is most commonly seen when an athlete returns to play after an injury or a period of time away from regular training in the previous 12 months (McManus et al., 2006), they want to get straight back to where they were, and try to hit the ground running.

 

Trying to throw yourself back into the sport can be the most dangerous way of doing things as the body just isn’t ready and a foundation base needs to be built to get the best responses and adaptation (Gabbett et al., 2016). This has been reported in other team sports and explained using a ‘training load’ where there are a ‘goldilocks’ effect and a sweet-spot of training to reduce the chances of injury (Cross et al., 2016). There are also a number of ways you can test if you’re more susceptible to an ankle or even a knee injury.

 

Two simple tests can show your injury potential from the endurance of your ankle plantar flexors and hip extensors. They can be set up with no equipment apart from a step and a chair but can give a great indication as to what might need to be worked on in a gym setting.


post workout recovery stretching


Calf Raise (gastrocnemius and soleus endurance) Single leg hip thrust (hamstring and glute endurance)
  • Stand on one leg with the ball of your foot one step in front of the wall (no shoes).
  • Place one finger of each hand on the wall at head height
  • Start at full plantar flexion
  • Lower through full ROM
  • Maintain steady rhythm with no bouncing
  • Use a metronome at 60 Hz to pace
  • 1 second up and down phases.
  • If the athlete starts to show any knee extension, hip hitching, excessive hand pressure or limited ROM they will be cued to stop and given 1 warning. Then second time one of these is observed the test is over.

 

  • Lie on back with arms across the chest (shoes on).
  • Place heel of one leg onto a 45 cm bench or box
  • 90-degree knee bend in working leg knee.
  • Free the leg bent with thigh held vertical.
  • Tester to kneel by the athlete and establish full hip extension by observing a bilateral raise.
  • Tester  to  leave  fingers  at  level where  hips  touched  in  full  extension  as a guide  for athlete during test to control ROM
  • Glutes to touch floor but not rest there
  • Lift hips pushing through the heel until full hip extension touching testers fingers
  • Use a metronome at 60 Hz to pace 1  second up and down phases
  • If the athlete begins to show any of the following; swinging of free leg, weighting/resting on floor, back hyperextension or trunk movement to gain momentum, jerky movement or rebounding off the floor.
Scores
0-10 Bad (Very high injury risk)
11-20 Poor (High injury risk)
21-30 Average (Some injury risk)
31-40 Good (Reduced injury risk)
41+ Very Good (Low injury risk)

Don’t forget that although these tests might measure if you are likely to receive a ‘non-contact’ injury (where the muscles or joints might be subject to sprains or strains without additional external force) a lot of injuries will come from contact, being pushed/nudged despite netball, in theory, being a non-contact sport.

 

These exercises will help stabilise the ankle joint, challenge and improve your dynamic stability and balance. You should pick at least one exercise from each section to add to your workout twice per week and gradually increase intensity and volume to help protect yourself from injury. If the exercise feels really easy you can add weight, or take the exercise to a single leg to really challenge yourself.


skipping for fat loss


Ankle Landing Mechanics:

 

Depth Landings

Depth Jumps

Hurdle Hops

Skipping

 

Lateral Balance:

 

BOSU Ball Lunge

Backwards Jump & Hold

Lateral Dynamic Skaters

Airex Pad Hops

 

Hamstring Strength:

 

RDL

Nordic Hamstring Lowers

Lying Leg Curl

Kettlebell Swings

 

Leg Alignment:

 

Clam Shells

Crab Walks


netball (1)


References

 

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile oranisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.


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