What began as a passing game for genteel women in England in the late 19th century has become the popular and physically demanding sport of netball, which resembles basketball. Although netball is a noncontact game, players must perform at high speeds with quick changes of direction. Stretching exercises can keep athletes flexible and able to recover from game-related stress generated by running, jumping, cutting and stopping.
As part of a warm-up for a netball game, dynamic stretches activate the stretch reflex and also acclimate the body to coordinating neuromuscular movements. They can also lower the risk of injury and improve a player’s performance. In contrast to static stretching, in which stretches are performed slowly and held, dynamic stretches use flowing movement to elongate the muscles. An example of a warm-up regimen interweaves jogging with dynamic stretches related to netball, which include lunges, heel-toe walks, squats, kicks, trunk rotations and leg and arm swings. While jogging four lengths of the court, do four dynamic stretches that move from the baseline to the first transverse line. Each time a stretch is performed, jog back to the starting point. For example, the first stretch can be a lunge walk forward. Keeping your body erect, take a large step forward and drop your trunk between your legs. Bend both knees as you lower and raise your body, alternating legs on each lunge.
Lower-Body Static Stretches
Static stretching not only reduces muscle soreness after a workout or a game, but also extends a muscle’s flexibility beyond its familiar range of motion. These stretches should target muscle groups that have taken the most stress or load during a game. Stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds and repeated at least two times per muscle group. Cool down with a relaxed run for five to 10 minutes and follow with 10 minutes of lower-body stretches for the lower back, glutes, hip flexors, groin, iliotibial band, hamstrings, quads and calves. An example of a groin stretch is to sit on the ground with your back erect and knees bent. Bring the soles of your feet together, drawing them toward your pelvis. Gently press both knees to the ground with your hands until a stretch is felt in the groin.
Upper-Body Static Stretches
After a cooldown with light cardiovascular activity, static stretches for the upper body should include the upper back, shoulders, chest and arms. An example of a shoulder stretch is to stand with back erect and reach back with both arms fully extended. Clasp the hands, turning the elbows backward. To stretch the shoulders or rotator cuffs, begin in a kneeling position with back erect. Raise the right elbow and bend the arm, so the forearm reaches behind the neck. Bend the left arm and reach up behind the back. Try and hook the fingers of both hands together to feel the stretch. Switch sides and repeat.
Because of the quick changes in direction at high speeds, sprained ankles are the most common injury in netball. Injured ankles accounted for about 31 to 42 percent of all netball-related injuries, according to Michael Hutson’s 2011 “Sports Injuries.” Damaged knee ligaments and jammed fingers are also common injuries resulting from netball play. To avoid these injuries, do stretches that target these problem areas. For example, rotate the ankles to form circles and stretch the ligaments. Flex and point the toes or use the toes to draw alphabet letters.
- Netball: Steps to Success; Wilma Shakespear, et al.
- Netball Fun League: More Warm Up Stretches
- Mosman Netball: Dynamic Stretching
- Sports Injuries: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention; Stephen R. Bird, et al.
- Sports Injuries; Michael Hutson, et al.
- Improving Ankle and Knee Joint Stability: Proprioceptive Balancefit Discs Drills; Lucian Lupescu Milon, et al.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.