That was the case at Cambridge High last week when Silver Fern Monica Falkner spent a morning putting 16 students through their paces in the school’s main gym.
Falkner, who recently made an impressive recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to make her debut for the Ferns, was joined by NetballSmart Programme Director Sharon Kearney.
The pair took the players through the NetballSmart warm-up which is designed to address the high rate of injuries in female netball players.
Netball continues to be the biggest contributor to female sport related injuries in New Zealand, with an excess of 25,000 ACC claims, which came at a cost of $30m in 2019.
ACC has increased its investment into NetballSmart to $3.6m over the next three years and will look to strengthen the impact of the programme in secondary schools around New Zealand.
“I found it really interesting to learn why the NetballSmart warmup is so important as it strengthens the muscles used when you play a game of netball,” says Anna Jago (15).
“It made me think about the repetitive movements during a game and how to prevent getting injured. It was really cool to meet Monica and learn from her story.”
Her younger sister Madeleine Jago agreed, saying learning the NetballSmart warm-up was “very cool” and it will be useful for future netball games.
“It will also help prevent me from getting injured when I’m umpiring or playing. Hearing a professional’s story was very interesting and I learnt a lot. The whole experience was a lot of fun and I was glad I got the opportunity to take part,” says Madeleine (13).
Kearney, who was the Silver Ferns physio for 16 years, led the NetballSmart session and Falkner was training alongside the girls and on hand to talk about her journey back to international netball.
“It’s good to be able to talk to these girls face to face and tell them that rupturing your ACL is something that you don’t want to do,” says the 24-year-old Falkner. “It shows why the warm-up is so important because there is a huge personal cost when you suffer a serious injury.”
“Instead of running 10 lengths of the court and thinking you’re all good to play, your warm-up needs to be much more dynamic and get you ready for the game and training.”
ACC Injury Prevention Leader Kirsten Malpas says NetballSmart is making an impact.
During the last three-year investment period NetballSmart prevented 4,615 claims and has reduced and stabilised ACL injury rates.
Malpas says in recent years ACL injuries have become more prevalent in 10-19-year-old females, where previously this injury was seen as a professional sports injury.
“This age group has the highest incidence and rate of ACL injuries, compared with other age groups, highlighting the need to continue targeting this age group,” she said.
“Since 2014 there has also been a steady decline in the rate of all netball injuries, reflecting the overall impact of the NetballSmart programme.”
Greg Thornton, the Principal of Cambridge High School, says hosting the session was a great opportunity for his students to get some exposure to the world of elite sport.
“It was really exciting for our students to have Monica here, training with them and talking about her recovery from her injury. I think it’s something they took huge value from and a session they’ll remember for a long time.