Post by Will Thwaite (BPhty(Hons), BSc, Physiotherapist APAM)
Recently I went away as the head physiotherapist for the Queensland Volleyball teams at Australian Junior Volleyball Championships. In total there were 13 Queensland teams (130 athletes) the under 15/17/19 age groups consisting of both mens and womens teams. After a tough week, Queensland finished as overwhelming champions across all all divisions and were repeat winners of the Presidents Cup – awarded to the best performing state. Overall, Queensland teams walked away with 10 gold medals, 2 silver medals.
It was a busy week looking after 130 athletes, as volleyball is a highly dynamic sport that involves a lot of explosive movement and jumping. This can really take its toll on the body. A volleyball player can very quickly amass a large number of jumps in a training session or game. This high amount of jumping and spiking can lead to several overuse conditions. Below is a list of common volleyball injuries – both acute and overuse injuries.
1. Ankle sprain – with players jumping in close proximity at the net there is a risk of landing on another players foot and rolling your ankle. An acute ankle injury can range from mildly disabling and painful when walking to severe with a lot of swelling, bruising and pain. Sometimes, fractures can occur in the foot and shin bones due to the high levels of force as you land. Ankle injuries require a comprehensive assessment to direct best treatment to reduce your pain and aid in the prevention of repeated injury. It is important to restore range of motion, strength, balance and co-ordination after this injury otherwise you may be prone to recurrent injuries and chronic instability.
2. Jumpers Knee (Patella tendinopathy) – this is a typical overuse injury from a high amount of jumping. The patella tendon is put under a lot of load when jumping and landing and can become painful over time. This type of injury will typically “warm up” when playing but will become stiff and sore afterwards. Rehabilitation of this injury may mean temporarily reducing your number of jumps, strengthening muscles of the hips, thigh and calf, or using supportive braces during play.
3. Osgood Schlatters – another overuse condition affecting the knees of growing athletes who run or jump alot. This condition affects the bone on the front of the top part of your shin where the patella tendon joins the bone. There is commonly a very painful boney bump at the top of the shin. Management of this condition may require activity modification and strengthening/stretching of muscles in the legs to relieve some stress into this area. It is important to address this issue early as damage to the growth plate can lead to long term disability and/or pain.
4. Shoulder Pain – shoulder pain is very common in the spiking arm of a volleyball athlete. Acute shoulder injuries can be a tear or impingement of different structures around the shoulder. Most commonly, overuse of the shoulder through serving and spiking leads to tendinopathy or irritation of the tendons. As the shoulder is a highly mobile joint, muscle control and strength around your scapula (shoulder blade) and rotator cuff is extremely important. Poor movement and control of your upper and lower back can also contribute to overload the shoulder. Good rehabilitation should focus on strength and mobility of both your shoulder and trunk.
5. Low back pain – low back pain can come from many different sources in your back. As you can see in the picture (left) a large range of motion of the hips, lower back and upper back is required to spike.
Without good range of motion and control throughout this movement, the low back can become overloaded and irritated. Muscle spasm is very common. It is important to see a physiotherapist if you regularly develop back pain when playing volleyball. A thorough assessment will determine if you have mobility limitations or require strength improvements.
In summary, Volleyball can put alot of stress on the body. An RHP Physiotherapy screening can be performed to identify any areas of concern and optimise your movement to reduce the risk of these injuries. If you are experiencing pain in any area of your body or have any injury concerns from playing volleyball, call to make an appointment and start your rehabilitation.