Netball: NZ injuries rising at alarming rate

A health professional has raised concerns over the number of injuries sustained by female athletes, with over 20,000 netball-related ACC claims last year alone.

Netball New Zealand has started an injury prevention programme, but it appears much more is needed.

Storm Purvis has experienced the highs of netball, but is all too familiar with the lows.

Last month, three major knee surgeries and constant pain ultimately ended her career at just 27-years-old.

"I'd have specialists tell me I needed to think about my future," Purvis tells Newshub. "'What your knees are going to look like in five year's time. Do you want to run around with your kids?'"

And figures obtained by Newshub indicate injuries are on the rise. 

Last season, 23,085 ACC claims were made by female athletes. Over the past decade, ACL surgeries have risen 120 percent for women, compared to just 30 percent for men. 

In recent years, Netball NZ's 'Net Smart' campaign has pushed the importance of injury prevention. 

"If we can teach our kids how to look after themselves off court," says programme director Sharon Kearney. "Then they will succeed on the court." 

But, as professor and researcher Holly Thorpe explains, that's not the only issue.

"Although the netball smart programme is quite focused on the warm ups and biomechanics," Thorpe says. 

"We've also got issues around energy deficiency, which is when girls and young women are not fueling their bodies enough with nutrition."

Thorpe admits there's a gap in the research, which is leading to the high number of injuries. 

"Sports science research has been very male dominated, been done by men on men, on male athletes or on young men in uni," she adds. "Those have been the sample groups." 

But while both Kearney and Thorpe are among those working towards a better future for young female athletes, it's too little, too late for Purvis.

"Sometimes I think 'if I had only listened to my body, would I still be playing now?',"Purvis says. 

"I don't know. I don't like to think about it... but what I can say is that we are heading in the right direction."

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