Updated July 2021
Volleyball is a fan favorite sport and brings with it many physical and mental health benefits. Despite these benefits, like all physical activity, it brings with it the risk of injury.
Marisa Maleike, MS, LAT, ATC, a UPMC Sports Medicine athletic trainer at the University of Pittsburgh, weighs in on the five most common volleyball injuries, so you can protect yourself on the court during practices and matches.
1. Volleyball Ankle Injuries
The most common volleyball-related injuries involve the ankle, and ankle sprains are the most common injury in the sport.
Most ankle sprains are not severe and require only a few days or weeks of rest – and sometimes physical therapy. More severe ankle injuries can result in fractures and ligament/tendon injuries that may require surgery. A supportive ankle brace can help you avoid re-injury, so if you have a history of ankle injuries, your doctor may recommend that you wear one.
2. Jumper’s Knee (patellar tendonitis)
Volleyball requires players to jump to defensively block the ball and offensively spike the ball into the opposing team’s court.
Repeated jumping — especially on hard surfaces like the gymnasium floor — can result in a condition called jumper’s knee. This is when the tendons around the knee cap (patella) become irritated by small micro-tears, resulting in knee pain and stiffness.
You can help prevent jumper’s knee by reducing the amount you jump at practice, as well as by strengthening the surrounding knee muscles. If you experience pain from jumping, it is best to seek attention from a medical expert, which may include your team’s athletic trainer or a sports medicine physician.
Playing on a softer surface, such as a sandy beach, can also help reduce impact to the knee. Keep in mind, however, that sand volleyball players may have additional risk factors for injury compared to indoor players.
3. Shoulder Injuries in Volleyball
In volleyball, spiking and serving are high-stress activities that can result in injuries to the tendons and ligaments that support the shoulder.
While casual players probably don’t need to worry about hurting their shoulders, competitive players should limit the amount of serves and spikes and listen carefully to their body’s pain signals.
Shoulder strengthening, stretching before play, and using proper mechanics for serving and hitting can help reduce your risk of injury.
4. Volleyball Finger Injuries
Volleyball players can suffer jammed, dislocated, and fractured fingers from contact with the ball, the net, and even with teammates.
An injured finger should be evaluated and treated immediately, especially if there is significant pain, swelling, discoloration, or inability to move it. A prompt evaluation and treatment plan can reduce the likelihood of long-term issues, including pain and deformity.
5. Low Back Pain from Volleyball
Many athletes have low back pain from playing their sport; however, low back pain is fairly common among volleyball players as a result of muscle or ligament strain. If the pain doesn’t get better after a few days, or is worse during certain movements, you should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Preventing Volleyball Injuries
These steps can help prevent volleyball injuries:
- Stretch and warm-up before playing.
- Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
- Keep up your cardiovascular fitness and core strength.
- Get enough rest. You may want to avoid playing for multiple teams to reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
- Practice good technique. Consulting an expert coach will help learn proper mechanics.
- Treat injuries as they occur and allow your body to completely recover before heading back out on the court.
Care for Volleyball Injuries at UPMC
Marisa Maleike, MS, LAT, ATC, provides comprehensive care for athletes beyond the sidelines of practices and games and provides expert referrals for volleyball injuries and more. She joined UPMC Sports Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh in 2020, and prior to that worked with Tennessee women’s volleyball and James Madison women’s lacrosse. Marisa enjoys researching return to play objective testing measures and incorporating sport psychology into student-athlete rehabilitation.
If you’re an athlete looking for treatment, rehabilitation, or prevention methods for sports-related injuries, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. To learn more or schedule an appointment, please call 1-855-937-7678 or visit our website.