• Could Your Sporting Facilities be Causing Injuries?

Could Your Sporting Facilities be Causing Injuries?

Athletes are getting faster, stronger and performing at a more intense rate than ever before. This was evident recently in the Olympic Games, with 19 World Records set across 5 different sports and a further 60 Olympic Records being broken.

Correspondingly the skill and movement demand in team sports has been shown to be on the rise as well. These increases in performance, although extremely exciting, are accompanied by an increase in the risk of injury not only for these athletes but all aspiring to reach this heightened standards.

That is why more than ever before it is important for coaches, and other parties, to ensure that athletes are performing in a safe environment.

This fierce competition takes it’s toll and as a result netball averages 14 injuries per 1000 hours of play

Netball is one of Australia’s best represented sports, with 360,000 players registered with Netball Australia. It is described as more than a sport; it’s a passion and it’s beloved by all who participate. This exciting sport is high paced, athletes play with passion and grit, and viewers watch in awe as the athletes leave everything on the court.

This fierce competition takes it’s toll and as a result netball averages 14 injuries per 1000 hours of play, and a majority of these injuries are suffered to the ankle and knee. While it is acknowledged that factors such as players equipment, fatigue and contact can culminate in injury, the playing surface is the lead cause of lower limb injury in the sport of netball.

The harsh, rigid wooden or cement surfaces of netball courts in conjunction with the constant accelerate-decelerate, high octane nature of the sport can be unforgiving on an athlete’s ankle/knee joints. What makes the combination so dangerous is something called ground reaction force. This simple biomechanical principle refers to the equal and opposite reaction force that is produced from the ground and jolts through the player upon landing.

The more force the players produces before landing, the greater the force that will be transferred back into their joints via ground reaction force. The knee and ankle joints have the important task of stabilising the leg through these movements, not to mention the stresses of changing direction, accelerating and decelerating, all of which place extreme pressure on the surrounding ligaments of the knee and ankle. Combine that with the amplified ground reaction force from playing on these hard surfaces and netballers’ susceptibility of injury increases significantly.

An experiment was conducted over three years at the South African senior netball championships. Games were played on cement and synthetic indoor surfaces, injuries were 1.9 times higher on cement surfaces versus synthetic. More specifically of the 148 knee injuries per 1000 playing hours (80%) occurred on cement compared with the 26 knee injuries per 1000 hours of play (20%). Additionally, 88.9% of injuries resulting in 7 or more days rest time came from cement course. Further supporting the validity of a synthetic court in netball.

The softer surface means the body has more time to absorb the impact of landing, thus lessening the load and pressure through the joint.

What makes the softer synthetic surface injury friendly is it’s giving nature. The softer surface means the body has more time to absorb the impact of landing, thus lessening the load and pressure through the joint. It’s this increase in time taken to absorb the impact that is the difference maker in injury rate between synthetic and cement courts. It would be incredible to see synthetic netball courts countrywide, however, the lower cost of cement courts prove more important than the injury rate.

Netball is not the only sport to have some controversy regarding playing surface. Next week we will explore rugby union and gridiron, whether particular grass types like artificial, indoor, Bermudagrass, Kentucky Bluegrass affect players performance and injury rate.

References:
Theobald .P, Whitelegg .L, Nokes L. & Jones M. (2010). The predicted risk of head injury from fall-related impacts on to third-generation artificial turf and grass soccer surfaces: A comparative biomechanical analysis 30 – 36

James Grigson

Product Specialist

James Grigson is a strength and conditioning coach. Currently, a third-year sports science student at the University of Queensland, James’ primary focus is the strength and conditioning for the SportsMed Elite and Baseline products.

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