Common Volleyball Injuries and Prevention

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Volleyball is a great sport for players of all ages and levels. But as with any sport, it can result in injuries. The majority of volleyball injuries can generally be classified as either chronic (overuse) injuries or acute (traumatic) injuries. Learn about the common injuries and see some tips on preventing them.

Common Overuse Volleyball Injuries

Overuse injuries occur over time due to stress on the muscles, joints and soft tissues without proper time for healing. They begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, and can grow into a debilitating injury if they aren't treated early. 

In general, patella (knee) tendinitis is the most common volleyball injury. Other typical injuries include:

  • Shoulder tendinitis, bursitis, and impingement syndrome
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Bursitis of the elbow
  • Wrist tendinitis
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Muscle strains of the back
  • Low back pain

Common Acute Volleyball Injuries

On the other hand, acute or traumatic injuries occur due to a sudden injury, force or impact, and can be quite dramatic.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are common in volleyball. When they occur they are typically either to the ligament or cartilage.

  • Ligament Injuries: Ligament injuries to the knee are very common in sports that require stopping and starting or quickly changing directions. These extreme forces on the knee can result in torn ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL) are the most often injured, but the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) can also be injured. Cruciate ligament injuries don't always cause pain, but typically cause a loud "pop." Most of these injuries are confirmed with an MRI. Arthroscopic surgery is sometimes the best way to find a partial tear.
  • Torn Knee Cartilage (Meniscus Injuries): Torn knee cartilage is usually a torn meniscus. These small, "c" shaped pieces of cartilage act as cushions between the thigh bone (femur) and the tibia (shin bone). There is one on the outside (lateral meniscus) and one on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus). Meniscus tears are often the result of twisting, pivoting, decelerating, or a sudden impact. It can be identified by various manual tests a physician can perform to detect torn cartilage.
  • Chondromalacia: This term refers to the softening and deterioration of the underside of the kneecap. In young athletes, this is typically an injury from trauma, overuse, poor alignment of the knee joint, or muscle imbalance. This leads to friction and rubbing under the kneecap the results damage to the surface of the cartilage. The sensation is a dull pain around or under the kneecap that worsens when walking down stairs or hills, climbing stairs, other weight-bearing activity.

Other Volleyball Pain and Injuries

These common sports injuries may also be seen in volleyball players.

  • Blisters: Blisters are fluid-filled sacs on the surface of the skin. They commonly occur on the hands or the feet due to friction.
  • Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): This muscle pain, stiffness, or soreness occurs 24 to 48 hours after particularly intense exercise or when starting a new fitness activity.
  • Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel and usually defined by pain during the first steps of the morning
  • Stress Fractures: Stress fractures in the leg are often the result of overuse or repeated impacts on a hard surface

Tips for Preventing Volleyball Injuries

Many sports injuries result from overuse, lack of proper rest, lack of proper warm-ups or poor conditioning. The following safety precautions are recommended to help prevent help volleyball injuries:

  • Warm up thoroughly prior to play.
  • Wear shoes with skid-resistant soles.
  • Use good technique and play by the rules.
  • Clean off courts before play. Check for slippery spots or debris.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand.
  • Get adequate recovery.
  • Stay hydrated.

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.