If you’ve ever participated in volleyball as a school sport or if you’ve ever jumped into an impromptu volleyball match on the beach, you know how much fun the sport is. But you may be surprised to learn that injuries occur quite frequently on the volleyball court–whether it’s indoors or on the sand. So, before you serve, dig, and spike your team to victory, take a few minutes to read up on some of the most common volleyball injuries, how they occur, and what you can do to treat them.
Ankle Sprains and Strains
According to a research study done by the Center for Injury Research and Policy, the most common high school volleyball injuries diagnosed during the 2018-19 school year were ankle injuries–which probably doesn’t come as much surprise to anyone who plays volleyball. A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn. A strain is when a tendon or muscle tissue is stretched or torn.
How It Can Happen: Much like in basketball, ankle sprains in volleyball most commonly occur when one player lands on another player’s foot while at the net. The constant running, jumping, and quick directional changes are also major factors in volleyball-related ankle sprains and strains.
Symptoms: If you’ve sustained an ankle sprain or strain, you’ll likely experience symptoms such as pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling, instability, and limited range of motion.
Treatment: For most ankle injuries, the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) successfully alleviates the pain and swelling. Physical therapy can also help you get back on your feet after an ankle injury. At Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, for example, we would customize an exercise program to your ankle pain so you can regain strength and restore flexibility.
According to the same research study, concussions were the second-most-frequently experienced volleyball injury. This may seem surprising, but all it takes is a blow to the head or even the body to cause a concussion, which occurs when the brain is jolted by a blow and moves around within the skull. This can lead to bruising or damage to nerves or blood vessels. Concussions, especially when multiple are experienced, can cause major damage later in life.
How It Can Happen: While concussions are generally caused by a blow to the head, non-head-related blows or hits can also result in a concussion. Something as innocuous as running into another player, bumping into a net pole, or taking a volleyball to the head can cause a concussion.
Symptoms: If you’ve ever had a concussion, you know how miserable it can be. There are three grades of concussions that doctors use for a diagnosis.
- Grade 1: Mild, no loss of consciousness, symptoms last less than 15 minutes
- Grade 2: Moderate, no loss of consciousness, symptoms last more than 15 minutes
- Grade 3: Severe, loss of consciousness (even if it only lasts a few seconds)
Concussion symptoms tend to vary by individual, but most people experience at least one of these symptoms:
- Dizziness/balance problems
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Light/noise sensitivity
- Ringing in ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Behavior/personality change
Treatment: Immediate medical attention should be sought out if you think you’ve sustained a concussion. In most cases, rest (both cognitive and physical) is the best treatment for a concussion. This includes avoiding screens (phones, video games, TVs, computers, etc.) as well as activities that require concentration and attention. It’s important to rest your body as well, because physical activity may make symptoms worse and set your recovery back. Most people aren’t aware, but physical therapy and traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptom relief therapy also offers many benefts when recovering from a concussion. At Physical Therapy NOW, we can even evaluate you for a concussion right in our facility.
Hand, Wrist, and Finger Sprains and Fractures
When a game requires you to pound or touch a ball on every single play, odds are your hands, wrists, and fingers are going to take a beating. And in volleyball, they do.
How It Can Happen: Hand, wrist, and finger injuries can occur with just about any volleyball activity–digging, serving, setting, blocking, spiking. All it takes is one awkward encounter between the hand/finger and the ball to cause an injury. But these injuries also occur when the hand or wrist comes in contact with the net or another player.
Symptoms: Symptoms all depend on the injury itself. Most hand, wrist, and finger injuries wind up being fractures or sprains, and you’ll be able to identify these by pain, swelling, bruising/discoloration, limited range of motion, and tenderness. An X-ray is always recommended for a precise diagnosis.
Treatment: As with most other types of sprains, sprains of the hand, wrist, and finger can be iced and rested in order to heal. For finger sprains, buddy taping and splints also help. Fractures may require a cast for the hand or wrist, a splint for a broken finger, or surgery depending on the severity and location of the fracture.
Knee Tendonitis or Ligament Tear
Knee injuries are common occurrences for volleyball players. The knee is a very complex joint that takes on a lot of stress from sports, especially volleyball. Like all joints, the more stress that’s involved, the more likely the joint is to become injured. In volleyball, sudden knee injuries are also common because of all the jumping, landing, and pivoting involved in the sport.
With the knee, the most frequent injuries are tears and ruptures of the various ligaments that stabilize and cushion the knee–these included the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). Of course, there are many, many other injuries involving other parts of the knee, such as the patellar tendon, meniscus, bursa sac, and kneecap, just to name a few.
How It Can Happen: A common volleyball injury is tendonitis of the patellar tendon, which is commonly known as “jumper’s knee.” Jumper’s knee is often the result of the repetitive and explosive jumping that occurs dozens of times during every volleyball game, and this leads to tears in the patellar tendon, which connects from the kneecap to the shin bone. It’s estimated that about half of all volleyball players will develop jumper’s knee at some point.
A less common, but more serious, knee injury that can occur during volleyball is an ACL tear. In volleyball, this generally happens when a player makes a cut on the floor or when landing from a jump awkwardly. In fact, improper landing technique is the most common cause of knee injuries in volleyball players. Athletes should land with their knees over their toes and their hips back. By landing with an increased knee bend, or with the knees out of line with the toes, more strain is placed on the knees.
Symptoms: Jumper’s knee causes pain that usually occurs where the patellar tendon attaches to the lower kneecap, while an ACL tear will cause swelling, pain, and the sensation that your knee might give out or feel unstable. Players who suffer an ACL tear often hear or feel a pop when the injury occurs.
Treatment: For jumper’s knee, rest, ice, stretching, and strengthening the legs (specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes) can help treat the tendonitis and prevent further occurrences. ACL tears, however, often require reconstructive surgery followed by a lengthy period of rehabilitation and physical therapy to get the knee and leg back to full strength. This process, while it varies by individual, can take up to a full year.
Among the many shoulder ailments volleyball players experience are rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder impingement. The shoulder is a complex joint, and at the heart of it is the rotator cuff, which is a set of tendons and muscles that provide stability in the shoulder. Repetition and overuse can cause irritation, inflammation, and tears of the rotator cuff tendons and muscles.
How It Can Happen: Volleyball players obviously use their arms quite frequently for serving, digging, spiking, and blocking. These repetitive movements can easily lead to shoulder pain such as rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder impingement.
Symptoms: Rotator cuff tendonitis can cause pain from the outer arm to the top of the shoulder, especially when reaching behind your back or overhead. Shoulder impingement also causes pain during the same types of movements, and it may radiate down the arm and also result in a loss of strength in the shoulder. Because the symptoms are so similar, you should seek medical attention in order to treat and rehab the right injury.
Treatment: For minor rotator cuff injuries, the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) can alleviate the pain and swelling, but physical therapy is often the most successful approach to these injuries. Shoulder impingement treatment generally involves rest, medication, and stretching. At Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, we can customize an exercise program to your shoulder pain so you can regain strength and restore flexibility. More serious rotator cuff injuries and other shoulder injuries could require injections or surgery, followed by PT to help the shoulder recover.
Get Back in the Game
At Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, we see all types of sports-related injuries, including common volleyball injuries. Our experienced team knows how to get you back on your feet–and in the game–quickly and safely. After you’ve seen your doctor, call us at (214) 225-0291 to set up your initial appointment. We’ll examine your injury and work with you to create the perfect treatment plan.