Netball is the most popular and largest participation sport for women as well as the second largest sport in South Africa [1]. Netball is therefore regarded as a high profile sport in South Africa. However, concerns by prominent coaches have been raised about injuries that are marring the game of netball [2]. As very little research has been done on South African netball players, this study was initiated to investigate the problem. The specific focus of this paper is to report on the injury profile of South African netball players as reflected at an Annual National Seniors Netball Tournament.


Four hundred and ninety five (495) players participated at the Annual National Seniors Netball Tournament. These players represented 32 regions. This tournament is the largest netball competition held annually in South Africa for elite netball players. Of the 495 players, 108 (21.8%) experienced injuries during the tournament. A questionnaire was used to gather information from the relevant injured players. The type, frequency, place, time, anatomical location and mechanism of the injury as well as the playing position of the injured player were recorded. Descriptive statistics was used to describe the injury profile and the Chi-square test was applied to determine the significance of relationships between the various variables mentioned and injury frequency. A confidence level of 95% was set for all tests.


It was found that the ankle joint is the body part that is injured more frequently (47.2%) than any other body part, followed by the knee (14.8%), hand (10.1%), head (7.4%), other (5.5%), upper arm (3.7%), wrist (3.7%), hip (1.9%), jaw (1.9%), lower leg (1.9%) and foot (1.9%). The results also indicated that there was a significant relationship (χ2 = 8.27; p<0.01) between the number of injuries noted and the location on court where the injuries occurred. The players in the defense area (42.6%) were more likely to be injured when compared to other areas on the court (center area = 34.3% and attack area = 23.1%). The results further showed that there was a significant relationship (χ2 = 11.63; p < 0.01) between the number of injuries registered and the quarter in which they occurred. The injuries occurred significantly less in the 1st quarter (11.1%) than any of the remaining three quarters (28.7%, 32.4% and 27.8% for quarters 2,3 and 4 respectively) which could be explained by the fact that the players had performed adequate warm-up drills and the body was better prepared for sharp stop-start leaping skills required during the game. There was a significant relationship (χ2 = 19.39; p < 0.01) between the number of injuries indicated and the type of injury that occurred. The most common type of injury was sprains (63.9%) followed by contusions (9.3%) with lacerations, dislocations, tears, scratches and fractures accounting for less than 6% respectively.

Discussion / Conclusions

Although the injury rate of the ankle reported by this and other studies [3,4,5,6] range between 30.2% and 84%, overall these studies all concur that in netball ankle injuries are the most prevalent injuries followed by knee injuries. The finding that most players were injured in the defense area is also in line with literature [6]. The distribution of the injury rate over the four quarters of the game was not supported by a previous study [4] investigating the same issue. Ankle sprains was by far the most frequent injury type that occurred, a finding also supported by previous research [7]. Although no significant difference was found between body contact (47%) and non-body contact (46%) mechanisms of injury (7% were unsure of the specific mechanism), the relatively high percentage of injuries occurring due to body contact is alarming. This suggests that the netball players in South Africa play a more physical game of netball, a mode comparable to basketball [7].
It can be concluded that the injury rate is substantial and that the most prevalent location and type of injury as well as court area where the most injuries occurred, are generally similar to that found in other netball playing countries. The concerns raised by South African netball coaches therefore seem justified and further research to investigate appropriate intervention strategies seem evident.


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