Volleyball is one of the safest competitive sports, but overuse and acute injuries do occur. Played by both men and women in high school, college, and even professionally as adults, volleyball requires repetitive over head motions, in addition to spiking, diving and blocking motions that can cause acute injuries.
Volleyball players are typically prone to injuries that correspond with the areas of body used in specific motions. The shoulder is prone to injuries from serving and hitting the ball, the knee can be hurt from diving or landing hard, the ankle and low back can be injured from jumping and twisting motions, and the fingers are particularly prone to injuries from smacking the ball. The most common injury in volleyball is the ankle sprain, which results in the highest amount of lost playing time.
- Volleyball players are prone to overuse injuries due to repetitive overhead motions
- Contact with the net, ball, and other players can cause traumatic injuries
- When an athlete lands out of control on the lower extremity or on the foot of another player a traumatic injury can occur.
There are intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for injury. Intrinsic factors are a child’s individual musculoskeletal issues, which can include skeletal immaturity (bones and joints that are still developing) or muscle weakness. Extrinsic factors are the environment in which an athlete performs, which can include the level of competition: how much, how hard and how long play lasts.
Other common risk factors for volleyball injuries include:
- Serving and spiking are two repetitive activities that are done while attempting to generate a great deal of force. The combination of repetitions and force can result in injuring the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder.
- Blocking, setting, and digging are all activities that have been found to increase the risk of finger injuries.
- Most injuries occur when the ball strikes the fingertip.
- If the player is unable to bend an injured finger a sports health professional needs to be consulted.
- The repetitive, forceful jumping involved in spiking and blocking can result in patellar tendinitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon that connects the kneecap (patella) to the leg (tibia).
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injuries occur when a player lands awkwardly from a jump. If an ACL injury is suspected a sports health professional needs to be consulted.
- The repetitive nature of arching the back during serving can result in low back pain. If low back pain develops then s sports health professional needs to be consulted to develop a plan of care that will allow the athlete to return to full participation.
Prevention and Performance
The best way to avoid volleyball related injuries is to be trained in proper technique and mechanics. Additionally, wearing protective padding on the knees and elbows can help reduce the occurrence of injury.
Other ways to avoid injury include
- To improve performance and decrease the risk of injury a strengthening and conditioning program that stresses proper technique should be implemented.
- Any training program should be developed by a sports health professional like a sports physical therapist.
- Proper exercise parameters should be followed, with the program focusing on the lower back, shoulders, and lower extremity.
- Jump training on hard surfaces should be minimized to decrease lower extremity injuries.
- Players should warm-up prior to practice or games by doing light aerobics and gentle stretching. Additionally players should take the time to cool-down after practice and games.
- Did you know that each year over 400,000 high school students participate in volleyball at the interscholastic level?
- Did you know that 300,000 of those athletes are females?
- Did you know that an athlete should return to play after injury only after gaining clearance from a sports health professional?
- Rotator cuff impingement
- Rotator cuff tendinitis
- Finger fracture
- Finger dislocation
- Finger sprain
- Patellar tendinitis
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injury
- Low back pain
- Lumbar spine herniated disc
- Ankle sprain