Young female athletes reduce injuries and achieve sporting success

Injuries for young female athletes have been reduced by a quarter this season thanks to new strength and conditioning sessions run by Solent Sport’s High Performance Academy at Southampton Solent University.

England Netball South and the Hampshire Centre of Excellence athletes have been taking part in the sessions, which have also helped the athletes become stronger, fitter and decrease the risk of injury.

As well as access to top-class gym facilities based at the University, athletes have support from certified strength and conditioning coaches from the High Performance Academy.

Solent Sport and Southampton Solent University have developed the High Performance Academy (HPA) to help students compete on the national and international stage while studying at Solent.

Netball South is the official regional association for the counties of Berkshire, Guernsey, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, North Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, South Buckinghamshire and Sussex. The athletes have attended the sessions twice a week for the last year and will continue to do so next season.

The Hampshire Centre of Excellence (COE) is an enhanced coaching centre for U9, U11, U13, U15 and U17 age groups, and allows players identified as having elite potential the opportunity to access appropriate levels of coaching and support. The athletes take part in the sessions for eight weeks during their pre-season training period.

“We have seen injuries down by a quarter this season,” says Benn Digweed, Head Physiotherapist at Southampton Solent University. “The conditioning has helped the athletes become more aware or their body and their movements, so they prevent an injury before it happens.”

The University has built partnerships with the Hampshire Centre of Excellence and the England Netball South squad to help young athletes increase their fitness by having access to staff and facilities that they wouldn’t normally. This, in turn has helped improve their performance on the court/field and made them less prone to injury.

Megan Somerville, 14, from Eagles Netball, has played for the past seven years and hopes to progress her sporting career and play professionally in the future.

“Even though netball is a non-contact sport, we can still be very prone to knee and ankle injuries,” she says. “Having access to the physiotherapist and these facilities have helped me become stronger as an athlete.”

James Grant, HPA Manager is pleased with the athletes’ progress. He says: “The strength and conditioning work with girls from the Hampshire Centre of Excellence and England Netball South has been really enjoyable and rewarding. The athletes are always really keen and enthusiastic. They have all improved physically with regards to movement proficiency and athleticism as a result of their hard work and commitment.”

The sessions with both performance pathway sports have provided Solent sports science and sports coaching students the opportunity to access some real life work experience. Students have worked alongside skilled coaches and have experienced not only the challenges, but the rewards of working with young athletes.

The individual athletes in the training group have formed supportive relationships and friendships that have developed far more than they would perhaps have done with the athletes training alone. There is high cohesion in the groups, which transfers from the gym environment to high-pressured match situations. There is also solid evidence that the integration of effort, and coordination and communication between the coaches, the HPA team and the athletes, has helped to reduce the overall number of injuries sustained because the athletes are more robust.

Lois Fidler, Technical Director of the Hampshire FA Girls Centre of Excellence says athletes are benefiting from taking part in the sessions: “The collaboration with Southampton Solent University’s HPA service has been invaluable in supporting the players’ physical development. It has added huge value by providing the players with experience of an elite training environment. It's helping their understanding of gym based, sports specific training and how this supports both injury prevention and their impact and performance on the pitch.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT THE MEDIA OFFICE ON 023 8201 3079 or press.office@solent.ac.uk

About Southampton Solent University 

Southampton Solent University offers more than 19,000 students over 200 qualifications ranging from HND to PhD, in subjects such as maritime education and training, fashion and design, media and television, music, health, sport and leisure, business, IT and technology. The University was awarded the 2013 Quality Assurance kitemark for quality and standards of teaching and learning. Solent was voted one of the most creative universities in the UK in a Which? University 2014 poll of students. Solent Business School has been awarded the Small Business Charter Award, which is supported by the Association of Business Schools and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and ‘gold approval’ by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

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Home to around 11,000 students studying everything from HNDs to PhDs, Southampton Solent University is dedicated to enabling learners of all backgrounds to become enterprising citizens and responsible leaders, while also promoting economic and social prosperity. Winner of the Times Higher Education ‘Most Improved Student Experience’ Award 2015, Solent is a dynamic university with strong local links and a growing network of global connections – and a reputation for developing grounded, well-prepared graduates with the skills and experience employers want. Holder of the small business charter, home to one of the world’s leading maritime training academies and voted one of the UK’s most creative universities in the 2013 and 2014 Which? University student polls, Solent applies passion and innovative practice to all its courses. Spanning business and law, the creative industries, engineering and technology, maritime, media, sport and tourism, those courses deliver a practical blend of career-focused tuition and real-world experience – giving our students the tools they need to shape their own success.

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Even though netball is a non-contact sport, we can still be very prone to knee and ankle injuries. Having access to the physiotherapist and these facilities have helped me become stronger as an athlete.
Megan Somerville, 14, from Eagles Netball
The collaboration with Southampton Solent University’s HPA service has been invaluable in supporting the players’ physical development. It has added huge value by providing the players with experience of an elite training environment.
Lois Fidler, Technical Director of the Hampshire FA Girls Centre of Excellence