Injuries in VolleyBall

By Amanda Wolfe

Athletes have very strenuous jobs no matter what sport they participate in; volleyball players are probably no exception. There are over 50 different types of injuries that can plague volleyball players due as a result of their sport, but most of the injuries occur in their joints. Due to the nature of the game, it is common for players to suffer from painful injuries in their shoulders, fingers, knees, and ankles, but many more body parts can also be affected. Some of the most frequent volleyball injuries, are rotator cuff injuries, sprained or torn ankle ligaments, tendonitis in the wrists and knees, and low back pain. This article will focus on repetitive shoulder injuries and sprained ankles, and how massage can be a significant part of their treatment.

Volleyball involves a lot of arm movement that comes from the glenohumeral joint, which is the shoulder joint. This is from constant repetitive serving, blocking, setting, and spiking. Some shoulder injuries such as muscle tearing or joint dislocation usually result from sudden trauma, while other injuries such as bursitis, tendonitis and nerve impingement will typically stem from the repetitive use. Many volleyball players that suffer from repetitive use injuries will manage their pain themselves through ice, stretching, rest, appropriate exercise, or over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication. If these toward self-care do not help the condition, then many players will seek out physical therapy and massage therapy. Many cases of traumatic injuries can also be treated with similar approaches, however other cases can sometimes require different types of medical treatment, surgery or require the athlete to give up their sport. Surgery or giving up the game is more common in cases of repetitive traumatic injuries (such as several tears or dislocations to the same shoulder).

Sports and rehabilitation massage are very beneficial for breaking down restrictions and trigger points that develop from the constant use of the muscles of the shoulder. A good massage therapist will first address any inflammation with cryotherapy and lymphatic flushing. Once this is addressed, the therapist will employ various sports massage techniques such as trigger point therapy, muscle decompression, soft-tissue release, friction, and passive and isometric stretching. The goals of these techniques are to break up restrictions, release tension, bring blood flow to the area to restore nutrients and flush out toxins, increase mobility and range of motion, and ultimately ease pain and help restore muscles to a healthy state.

Sprained ankles are another injury common to volleyball players. A sprain is when a sudden traumatic force (such as a fall) causes a ligament to be compromised by either being over stretched or twisted in an unnatural way that results in damage. Sprains can be severe, or almost unnoticeable. They are common injuries for volleyball players because of the constant jumping, running, sudden changes in direction, and more. A lot of sprains happen when players fall wrong or land improperly after a jump. The level of pain and the amount of swelling usually reveal how severe the strain is.

Sprains are always immediately treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (remembered by the acronym “R.I.C.E.”). Once the initial swelling and pain have subsided the next steps in healing usually center around rehabilitation. The player needs to take steps towards self-care to restore the range of motion, mobility, and strength of the ankle. For most players, this means they have to follow a regimen of stretching and exercises. Some sprains will require a player to have some degree of physical therapy, but many times the rehabilitation can be done at home with a care routine prescribed by their doctor or physical therapist.

Massage therapy plays a huge role in reducing the long-term negative effects of a sprain, especially for volleyball players. When any damage to a muscle, tendon, or ligament occurs, it is more than likely that scar tissue will develop. Scar tissue can cause limited range of motion, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Massage throughout the healing process can help break down scar tissue as it develops in a recent injury; it can also reduce scar tissue on older injuries. The sooner an injury site is treated, the better the outcome will be. Once the swelling comes down (with the help of cryotherapy and lymphatic drainage), massage can be used to help limit the build-up of scar tissue, increase the range of motion, and promote blood flow for faster healing. Some of the most effective techniques in combating new or old scar tissue are cross-fiber friction, isometric stretching, STR, and more.

With any injury, the good massage therapist will structure a treatment plan around the clients’ needs. In most cases, the first step will typically involve getting rid of inflammation and swelling through manual lymphatic drainage massage and cryotherapy. This will usually be followed by pain management. During and after the pain is under control the therapist will usually work on increasing range of motion, mobility, and strength while fighting or breaking down any scar tissue development. The exact execution of the treatment plan will vary depending on the response of the client’s body to each technique, the therapist’s experience and preferred modalities, time limitations, and more.

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