Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in the world. According to many estimates, it ranks only second to soccer (football) in global popularity! We’d like to share the most common injuries in volleyball, shoulder injuries, and preventative measures you can take to keep your shoulders safe and healthy as a volleyball player.
Information for this post has been pulled from multiple research articles and reviews. They can all be found cited at the bottom of the page.
What Are The Most Common Injuries in Volleyball?
Research shows that the most common injuries for volleyball players are ankle injuries and overuse injuries of the knees and shoulders. Compared to most other team sports in the world, indoor volleyball and beach volleyball have relatively low injury rates! Here’s a look at injured regions of adult male and female volleyball players from a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
A majority of ankle injuries in volleyball are ankle inversion sprains. These sprains are most common for middle blockers and outside attackers. Of these injuries, up to 80% of sprains are on previously injured ankles.
Most knee injuries are caused by patellar tendinopathy- an overuse injury of the knee. Patellar tendinopathy is more common among volleyball players who train on hard surfaces with a high amount of jump training. Middle blockers are at the highest risk. In general, the higher the dynamic load on the patellar tendon, the higher the increase for patellar tendinopathy.
Shoulder pain is the third most common injury for both male and female volleyball athletes and is the second most common overuse injury after patellar tendinopathy. 8-20% of all volleyball injuries occur in the shoulder. While this is true, there are still not many studies focused on the epidemiology of shoulder pain among volleyball athletes.
According to one study, “The scapula, which serves as a “funnel” for the efficient transfer of kinetic energy to the upper limb, is furthermore responsible for providing a stable base of support so that the upper limb can be correctly positioned in space during the performance of overhead skills. The glenohumeral joint, which is capable of an exceptional range of motion, is unfortunately inherently anatomically quite unstable. Consequently, the dynamic stabilizers of the scapula and the humeral head are critical to maintaining the functional integrity of the glenohumeral joint and to the ability to successfully serve and spike a volleyball.”
Diagram from OrthoInfo
According to this information, it is important to pay extra attention to the scapula, humeral head, and glenohumeral joint when thinking about the main parts involved with shoulder injuries in volleyball.
The Most Common Shoulder Injuries in Volleyball
There are three common shoulder injuries seen among volleyball athletes. Shoulder impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tears/tendonitis, and scapular dyskinesis are all common shoulder injuries. We will look at what each injury is and then learn about suggested prevention techniques based on current research.
Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Shoulder impingement describes a process in which the tendons of the rotator cuff become pinched (or “impinged”) upon themselves or the bony prominences of the shoulder. This commonly occurs due to repetitive overhead sporting activities such as throwing, swimming, tennis, weight-lifting, volleyball, rock climbing, etc.
Rotator Cuff Tears and Tendonitis
Rotator cuff tears occur when the muscle attached to the humerus through the tendon tears, resulting in weakness and a loss of range of motion. These tears can happen suddenly or over time.
Scapular Dyskinesis (SICK Scapula Syndrome)
Scapular dyskinesis, or SICK scapula syndrome, is when your scapula isn’t aligned correctly at a resting and active state. SICK scapula syndrome is usually caused by repetitive use of the shoulder. The most common symptoms include pain and tenderness around the scapula, popping around the scapula during movement, loss of arm strength, an asymmetrical posture (usually, the injured side’s scapula sits lower), and feelings of instability in the shoulder. You can notice the scapula sitting lower when looking directly at both shoulder blades side-by-side (also called volleyball shoulder).
How to Prevent Shoulder Injuries in Volleyball
The table below shows the proposed risk factors for shoulder pain among volleyball athletes. It’s sorted by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. There are a good amount of modifiable factors that can influence preventable measures.
In this study, the following facts were also noted:
- Elite female athletes may be more prone to developing shoulder pain than male athletes.
- Where and how an athlete contacts the ball during the spike will influence the load on the glenohumeral joint.
- Overhead athletes with shoulder pain also have shown a difference in core strength with increased core weakness.
There has been a significant rise in research on shoulder overuse amongst overhead athletes within the last decade. However, most of these studies have focused on baseball exclusively and not volleyball. There are very similar biomechanical aspects among both sports, and so some researchers say that these techniques can be applied to the sport of volleyball as well. Taking current research and the modifiable risk factors above into account, we’re going to recommend prevention strategies related to technique, training, and rehabilitation.
If a volleyball player is affected by shoulder pain, they should be monitored for proper spiking techniques in an attempt to minimize the kinetic load on the glenohumeral joint.
A reduction in training should result in less shoulder overload and provide healing recovery for the shoulder. One study on tennis and baseball players showed that a consistent stretching program year-round resulted in fewer shoulder injuries. The same could be potentially said about volleyball athletes.
As mentioned before, one study showed that the dynamic stabilizers of the scapula and the humeral head are critical to maintaining the functional integrity of the glenohumeral joint. Targeted training focusing on these areas in conjunction with strength and endurance would be helpful with injury prevention. A focus on core strength and stability would also be beneficial.
Strengthening of the external rotator cuffs should be used alongside shoulder stretching and joint mobilizations.
Prevention of further injury after shoulder pain is highly dependent on the rehabilitation process of the initial injury. The athlete should be examined post-rehabilitation to make sure that they are ready to return to training. Muscular balance of the shoulder girdle is also very important. It’s important to introduce continuous therapy to previously injured volleyball athletes in order to promote muscle balance.
In conclusion, volleyball is an extremely popular sport with low injury rates. The most common injuries are to the ankles, knees, and shoulders. Shoulder impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tears and tendonitis, and scapular dyskinesis are all the most common causes of pain and shoulder injury among volleyball players. Injuries can be prevented and healed through strategic adjustments to technique, training, and rehabilitation.
If you are a volleyball athlete in need of rehabilitation or training services, contact ISMI today!
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