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Volleyball players have a high rate of injury

December 14, 2000

BY DR. JAMES BRAGMAN

VOLLEYBALL IS BECOMING AN increasingly popular and competitive sport. The success of the men and women's teams in the past Olympics and the coverage of volleyball on second-tier sports networks demonstrate that the level of play and interest nationwide is increasing.

Still, with all of its jumping and diving activities, volleyball remains a game with a high injury rate.

As with any jumping sport, volleyball places a lot of strain on your back. Players arch and twist their backs when they leap up to spike the ball and then uncoil them violently as they follow through on the spike. A back strengthening exercise program involving stretches and weight lifting is recommended along with an abdominal strengthening program.

Like other sports that require you to bring your arms over your head, volleyball has its share of shoulder injuries. The most common injury is to the rotator cuff. This is caused by the overhead position of the arm in spiking, blocking and serving. When you are trying to block a spike, the force of an oncoming ball can be as much as 100 m.p.h.

The jump-serve also can strain the rotator cuff muscles. A shoulder strengthening and range-of-motion program with a certified physical therapist is recommend after an injury.

Finger fractures and dislocations are fairly common because of the high speed of impact of the ball. If swelling persists and movement is limited, these injuries should be seen by your doctor and X-rayed. Sometimes taping a broken or dislocated finger to an adjacent digit may be all that is required to protect it.

Patellar tendonitis, or so-called jumper's knee, is another common volleyball injury. Jumping from a crouched position to block or spike a ball causes your quadriceps-thigh muscles-to contract violently and put stress on your knees. The usual treatment is an anti-inflammatory agent such as Advil or Aleve, along with a quadriceps-strengthening exercise program such as shallow squats with manageable barbell weights.

Volleyball players often sprain their ankles after coming down on the side of another player's foot. If the sprain is mild, use the RICE formula, which means Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This should be followed by a range of motion and ankle strengthening exercises.

If your strain is more severe, your doctor may prescribe a soft or hard plastic cast to protect and support the ankle.

Volleyball is a game of power that involves a combination of strength and speed. As a result, you need to train with weights to develop strength in your upper body, back and shoulders as well as your legs.

Finally, to avoid injury while improving your vertical jump, try to practice jumping as you would during a game. This means practicing your footwork in blocking and spiking and then jumping as high as you can, especially toward a target like a basketball backboard.

If you work your way up to at lest four sets of 10 jumps, you can increase your jump by several inches in just a few weeks.




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