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Netball Knee
“NETBALL KNEE” is a sports injury that is commonly seen in netball players, especially girls and women. However, it can occur in just about anyone. If you have had it, you know exactly how bad it feels. You usually have pain and swelling around your knee cap (patella). There is also often a strange “grinding” sensation in your knee-cap when it moves. Sometimes you can even feel and hear the grinding. The pain is worse with using stairs, squatting or jumping. It hurts with stopping quickly when running fast. So, as this is what a netball athlete does every game, this is a common injury seen in netball players. Medically this is known as ANTERIOR KNEE PAIN, PATELLO-FEMORAL SYNDROME, or CHONDROMALTIA PATELLAE. These are just fancy Latin medical words for “pain on the front of the knee”.

The most important question to ask when dealing with these injuries is…. WHY does this occur? To assume that the injury is due to netball, or jumping or walking stairs is incorrect. If that were true, then everyone who plays netball, does a jumping sport or walks stairs would have the same symptoms; and this is not true. Also, both legs have gone the same distance and done the same activity, so why one knee and not the other? If it is not the sport or activity, what is causing this to happen? The answer is usually, faulty foot, ankle and knee biomechanics. Often athletes are told that it is due to weakness in specific muscles. Again, WHY is one specific muscle weak and only on one leg? Keep asking WHY to get to the underlying cause.

So – what is the underlying cause? Normally – the knee cap should slide up and down in the groove that it sits in on the end of your thigh bone (femur). In people with knee-cap pain, the knee cap slides too much sideways, this irritates the surface of the back side of the knee cap. So, WHY does the knee cap slide sideways? This is due to the “Q-angle” increasing in the knee. The “Q-angle” is increased when the lower leg bone (tibia) rotates and leans in. The tibia rotates and leans in because the foot arch collapses (over – pronation). The arch collapses too much due to the shape of the bones in the feet, which is something you are born with. So, if you support the foot arch, the knee has less stress and the knee cap glides properly. The body can then heal!

What do we do to successfully treat and prevent it from happening? Certainly, rest, ice and anti-inflammatories can help in the short term. Taping and braces can also help to minimize the abnormal movement of the knee cap, but this does not address WHY it is moving abnormally. And, this is the kind of injury that keeps coming back. We must address the underlying biomechanical fault in the feet, ankle or knee to treat the cause as well as the symptom. 

 At Pure Healthcare, we use GaitScan® technology to analyse movement in your feet. It isyour gait and then prescribe custom functional dynamic foot orthotics to help to balance and control the important to note that not all orthotics are the same. We recommend TOG Orthotics as they are semi-flexible, with 100% memory, and custom prescription to give you optimal support. They help to reduce knee stress and this then allows the knee to heal with the addition of ice, natural anti-inflammatory supplements, adjustments in the joints, and rehab exercises. As the lower extremity biomechanics are more stable, you can now return to play with a greater chance of being and staying active, with less knee pain.
Good luck and have fun! To learn more – www.GaitDoctor.co.nz



About the Author

Cherye Roche