When is a sports injury a good thing? When it makes for a great story. But when your injury sidelines you from playing your favourite sport, it becomes an issue. One of the last things you want is to be sitting on the sidelines with an injury. It’s true that injuries are a common risk with any sport. Here are some of the most common volleyball injuries and how you can prevent them.
Common volleyball injuries and how to prevent them
Ankle injuries are common with most sports, and volleyball is no exception. The most common acute injury in volleyball is a sprained ankle. This often happens during a play at the net, when players jump up and land on another player’s foot, twisting their ankle in the process. This can also happen when a player is running down a ball, and they just tweak their ankle the wrong way.
How to prevent an ankle injury
Start with a good warmup, including some light stretching, so that your ligaments loosen up and aren’t cold when you start playing.
You might consider wearing an ankle brace. Some players wear these are preventative measures, and some wear them to avoid a re-injury. It only took one sprain for me to start wearing ankle braces regularly! It’s not just the pain of the injury that hurts, but also the recovery time when you’re not playing.
Shoulder injuries often happen through overuse, which causes strain on the muscles and joints, causing a chronic injury. This is very common in volleyball, with all the hitting and serving!
How to prevent a shoulder injury
During your warmup, include some ball handling, such as throwing the ball to a partner or the wall. Include some hitting and serving, which helps target your shoulder.
Include some strength training into your fitness routine.
Use proper hitting techniques, which helps to reduce strain and impact on your shoulder joint.
If you feel any pain, especially if it’s persistent, be sure to see a professional to rule out any serious injuries. A small twinge now may turn into a serious issue down the road, so it’s better to treat it while it’s still just a small twinge!
A very common volleyball injury is to jam your finger when contacting the volleyball. This happens quickly and can be extremely painful. Many times, you can just shake it off, but strains, torn ligaments, or dislocated joints do happen.
How to prevent finger injuries
It’s difficult to avoid this kind of acute injury, but a good warmup can keep your ligaments loose and more pliable.
Avoid wearing jewellery when you’re playing! Your fingers will swell naturally a bit when you’re playing, but if you end up suffering an injury, your fingers could swell dramatically and quickly.
Give yourself lots of time to heal before returning to the court. Depending on the injury, some players use athletic tape to tape up their fingers for added support.
Knees can suffer from both acute and chronic injury. There is a lot of lateral movement and jumping in volleyball, and both of these kinds of movement put strain on knees. Common knee injuries can include patellar tendinitis and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries.
How to prevent a knee injury
Again, a good warmup is key to preventing knee injuries. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time jumping during our daily routine, so easing into this kind of motion on the volleyball court can help prevent injury.
If you feel any kind of pain, or suffer an acute knee injury, make sure to get proper medical attention. Knee pain can be from a number of different issues, so a proper diagnosis is important. Treatment may include exercise, strength training, physiotherapy, or even surgery.
Most players don’t wear a brace as a preventative measure, but if you’ve had knee issues it the past, you may want to consider a knee brace when you start playing volleyball again.
For those that have suffered a knee injury, your therapist may recommend a knee brace for additional support and to prevent re-injury.
→Bumps and bruises
They’re a rite of passage for being an athlete! And they also make for some great après-game stories! While you can’t avoid all those bumps and bruises, there are some things you can do to try to minimize them.
How to minimize bumps and bruises
Wearing knee pads will help some bruising on your knees if you’re digging and hitting the floor a lot.
Using the proper techniques will also help, especially if when you’re digging the ball on the floor.
Calling “mine” for the ball, and listening to your team mate’s calls, will help prevent some (but not all!) collisions with team mates.
Some would argue that you can’t call yourself a real volleyball player until you’ve slid across the floor so hard and fast you’ve left skin behind. Believe me, it actually makes a squeaking sound when this happens!
Floor burn often happens on your hands, but you might feel it on your knees or even your hips.
How to minimize floor burn
There’s not much you can do to prevent a floor burn injury, except try to use good digging technique. But this is sometimes hard to do when you’re in the heat of the moment, running down the ball! Floor burn isn’t usually a serious injury, and that shine left on your skin gives you some bragging rights!
Tips for avoiding injuries in volleyball
→Have a good warmup
Unfortunately, in recreational sports, we often jump right into the game without a good warmup. This is one of the worst things you can do! You’ll want to ease your body into the rigorous jumping and other movements that you’ll be doing during the game. This helps loosen up your muscles and ligaments so that they’re more flexible and pliable, and less likely to suffer an acute injury.
HOW: Before each game, start with some light running and stretching. Also include some ball handling warmup drills.
→Have a good cooldown
At the end of the game, it’s tempting to just grab your stuff and head out for drinks. However, you’ll want to start your body’s recovery process by giving it time to cooldown properly.
HOW: After each game, do some light stretches, without overdoing it. This helps your body maintain flexibility and prevent soreness.
→Drink enough water
Water keeps you hydrated, which actually helps your muscles and ligaments function the way they need to. This is especially important during exercise, when you’re putting more strain on your body.
HOW: Hydration doesn’t start on the court! Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before the game, to start with a good level of hydration. And always bring a water bottle to the game.
→Use good techniques
While you don’t have to use textbook techniques for all those awesome plays, you’ll want to make sure that you’re at least avoiding any techniques that will have a negative effect on your body.
For example, don’t arch your back too far when hitting the ball over your head, and don’t bang your knees directly on the floor when digging the ball (even when wearing knee pads).
HOW: Ask fellow team mates about any bad habits you may have developed. You can also watch some videos about proper techniques for volleyball.
→Give yourself enough time to heal
If you have suffered an injury, make sure you’ve rested it long enough to prevent re-injury. While it’s tempting to be a hero and play through your injury, you’re just risking longer term effects.
HOW: If it hurts, don’t play! You’ll also want to see a professional for certain injuries, as they can help with rehabilitation and give you an estimated timeline for activity again.
→Practice your spatial awareness
It’s really easy to get turned around on the volleyball court, especially when you’re looking up at the ball and running towards it. Running into a fellow teammate, the net posts, or benches on the sideline are all pretty common. However, practicing good spatial awareness helps to avoid these kinds of collisions.
HOW: Before every serve, make it a habit to look at where the court boundary lines are. Move benches and other player’s bags far enough away from the court. When you’re running down a ball, make sure you’re calling “mine” so other players know it’s your ball. And if you hear a team mate calling “mine”, be sure to back off and let them take the ball.
Chronic vs acute injuries
There’s two main categories of injury: chronic vs acute. Knowing the difference can help you to prevent them both.
A chronic injury is something that happens over time and regular, repetitive use, causing inflammation.
These kinds of injuries can kind of creep up on you – they can start with a small twinge, and unfortunately, you just get used to the pain, and play through it. However, if you catch these early enough, you can drastically minimize the long-term effects, and hopefully correct the issue before it becomes something major.
Common chronic injuries in volleyball include shoulder and knee issues, due to the strain and overuse on these joints.
It’s important to treat a chronic injury early and correctly, or else it will just keep reoccurring.
An acute injury is an accidental injury that happens suddenly and unexpectedly. This can happen during a play or during warmup. It can happen between two players, or between a player and the ball. Or, it can just happen to a player through a sudden movement made the wrong way.
Common examples of acute injuries in volleyball include a sprained ankle, a blown-out knee, or a sprained finger.
Can you really prevent these kinds of accidental injuries? Well, you can’t always prevent the action that causes the injury, but there are some things you can do to prevent the effects of that action on your body. For example, making sure you warmup before the game ensures your ligaments and muscles are loose and warm; so, if you do move the wrong way, hopefully the damage won’t be as severe.
And if you have suffered a past injury, consider wearing protective gear, like an ankle or knee brace, or tape your fingers or shoulder. This can hopefully prevent further injury.
It’s also important to treat an acute injury properly, and give it enough time to heal, otherwise you can risk re-injury, or it turning into a chronic injury.
The potential of getting injured should never stop you from playing a sport you love. Taking some basic steps will help minimize the potential for getting injured and will minimize the risks and effects on your body. And if you do happen to get injured, rest up, follow your therapist’s advice, and you’ll be playing again in no time!