With high school volleyball season in full swing, Dr. William Briner, Sports Medicine Physician at Hospital for Special Surgery, and Head Team Physician of the U.S. National Volleyball team, offers expertise and tips on how to play it safe on the court.
Volleyball is a sport that appeals to people of all ages but is especially popular among young female athletes. In terms of participation, volleyball ranks as the #3 sport for female athletes at the high school level, according to a 2012 survey by the National Federation of High School Associations.
While volleyball is one of the safest sports, increased participation has led to a rise of volleyball-related injuries over the years. Volleyball players are at risk for both traumatic and overuse injuries. A traumatic injury occurs suddenly, while an overuse injury usually occurs over time and results from repetitive motion or stress on a tendon, bone or joint.
The most common traumatic injury for volleyball players is a sprained ankle, and the most frequent overuse injuries involve the knee and shoulder. The nature of the game also leaves players susceptible to finger injuries. Some athletes can develop low back pain.
Although treatment varies depending on the injury, in most cases, rest, physical therapy and advice from an athletic trainer can resolve pain, facilitate healing, regain strength and help prevent future problems.
The best strategy is to prevent an injury in the first place. Below are some tips to play it safe on the volleyball court:
- Use proper strength training techniques for the lower back, shoulders, and legs
- Use an external ankle support, such as an ankle brace or taping, to prevent the ankle from rolling over, especially if you have had a prior sprain
- Minimize the amount of jumping on hard surfaces while training
- Warm up muscles with light aerobic exercises and stretching
- Be sure to properly cool down after practice
- If you are having pain, STOP playing and rest the injured area
- If pain persists, make an appointment with your doctor and follow instructions for treatment
- Return to play only when given the green light by a healthcare professional
William Briner, M.D. is a primary care sports medicine physician specializing in nonsurgical treatment at Hospital for Special Surgery Physician Office on Long Island. He is Head Team Physician for the U.S. National Volleyball Teams, as well as chair of the Sports Medicine and Performance Commission for USA Volleyball.