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Top 5 Injury Risks for Volleyball Athletes

By Devon Serrano, MS, LAT, ATC

Fall semester is upon us, along with the attack of everything pumpkin spice and tailgates.  Indoor women’s volleyball is in full swing as their sand and male counterparts prepare for off-season tournaments.  Focusing specifically on women’s indoor volleyball, some of the top risks involve the foot, ankles, knees, back and shoulder.

Foot

The foot is commonly injured because of the overall lack of protection for the foot during play. Often players suffer contusions and fractures of the phalanges and metatarsals from either being stepped on by teammates in the course of a rally or by an opponent coming under the net after a block or a hit.  Although the up and down referees are assigned the responsibility of watching for players going under the net, sometimes athletes still cross the line and cause injury to themselves or others.  In terms of prevention, it is important front row players are taught to land so their feet are not at greater risk of being injured by an opponent.

Ankles

The ankles are the bane of every Athletic Trainer’s existence, especially those who work volleyball.  The majority of collegiate coaches require all athletes to wear ankle braces bilaterally during every game and practice.  However, they put little emphasis on ankle strengthening, leading to moderate to severe ankle sprains out of the braces.  It is important that athletes participate in a strengthening program for their ankles to help with prevention.  , Start with the basic 4-way ankle exercise and work from there.

Knees

The knee, especially in female athletes, is always a hot topic. The constant jumping in volleyball is a risky activity for knees.  Many athletes will suffer from patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper’s knee. In some cases, athletes will experience injury to the ligaments or “terrible triad,” which includes the ACL, MCL and medial meniscus.  Implementation of a lower extremity strengthening program and proper jumping mechanics are key in helping to decrease the severity of injury and possibly the rate of injury as a whole.

Back

Due to the nature of the ready position used in volleyball throughout play, the back is constantly under stress.  The lumbar spine is in a forced lordosis while the thoracic spine tends to have more kyphosis.  Core and back strengthening and stabilization tend to help decrease pain, but it is critical that, in addition to proper form, athletes demonstrate good posture throughout the day.

Shoulder

The shoulder is always at risk with hitting or overhead serving athletes.  The supraspinatus is commonly stressed and suffers strains.  Similar to the ankle, implementing a strengthening program for the shoulder can help with overall injury prevention and performance enhancement.  The use of the shoulder “big four” – including exercises like extension, punches, internal and external rotation – is a good starting point that can be implemented either in the athletic training facility or with the help of a strength and conditioning coach.

Volleyball is a sport that benefits from preventative strengthening due to the repetitive nature of the sport’s actions.  Although typically considered an upper extremity sport, an overall approach to the body is preferred to address all the areas at risk