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Youth Volleyball Injuries

Two girls going for the volleyball above the netBump, set, spike.

Volleyball has become an increasingly competitive and popular sport. Young volleyball players not only play for middle or high school teams, but also try out for traveling or league teams between seasons.

This continuous play of one sport can lead to overuse injuries in the shoulders, knees, and other areas of the body. A varied workout routine with proper rest periods will reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

Taking part in a conditioning, strengthening, and flexibility program will increase power, endurance, and agility, which can help young volleyball players stay injury free and on the court.

Common Volleyball Injuries

  • Shoulder injuries — Constant use of the arms can cause volleyball players to suffer from:
    • Shoulder irritation and inflammation, specifically in the rotator cuff muscles.
    • Rotator cuff tendonitis or tears.
    • Shoulder impingement syndrome, which happens when muscles or tendons become pinched during movement, causing pain or discomfort.
  • Knee injuries — Knees are the most commonly injured part of a volleyball player's lower body. Repeated jumping can lead to:
    • Patellar tendonitis or “jumper’s knee.” The patellar tendon attaches the knee cap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia). When this tendon becomes irritated or strained, the resulting injury is patellar tendonitis.
    • Tears of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), a ligament located at the inside of the knee that provides stability and the ability to sense the position of the lower leg.
  • Ankle sprains also can occur from running, directional changes, and jumping during volleyball.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine’s Young Athlete Program can work with your pediatrician to evaluate and aggressively treat injuries to help prevent more serious long-term effects.

Causes of Volleyball Injuries

Most volleyball injuries are a result of overuse and overtraining. Playing on multiple teams during the year gives the young athlete less time for proper rest between practices and games.

Imbalances in strength and flexibility

When young athletes focus on one sport, they have less cross training. This can bring about imbalances in the muscles, meaning that the muscles used all the time are stronger than others in the body.

These imbalances can result from repetitive motions such as:

  • Jumping
  • Landing
  • Internal rotation of the shoulder during serves and spikes

Lack of strength and flexibility in the core, shoulders, and legs can lead to poor form in the athlete’s jumps and volleys, resulting in injury.

Improper landing technique

Poor landing technique is the most common reason for knee injuries in volleyball players.

Athletes should land with their knees over their toes and their hips back. Landing with an increased knee bend or with the knees over the toes places more strain on the knees.

Poor body control

Knee and ankle injuries also are caused by a lack of balance or control of the body when jumping and landing. Body control not only decreases the chances of injury, but also increases the power of hits and serves.

Preventing Volleyball Injuries

Interval training

Volleyball requires a different type of endurance than other sports, such as long distance running.

Because it's played in quick intervals lasting only 20 to 30 seconds, long cardiovascular workouts do not offer much benefit for volleyball players. A better option is interval training with cutting and directional changes to imitate play during a game.

Examples of cardiovascular interval training for volleyball include:

  • Ladder drills
  • Plyometrics (jumping exercises)
  • Shuffling
  • Shuttle drills

Strength training

Strength training for the core and legs will improve the athlete’s balance and jump height.

Exercises that target the core include:

  • Planks
  • Bridges
  • Squats with medicine balls

Exercises to increase leg strength include:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Tuck jumps

Strength training for the rotator cuff and scapular muscles of the shoulders also is important to prevent overuse injuries.

It increases the stability and strength of the shoulders, which is necessary for the repetitive movements of hitting, serving, and spiking the volleyball.

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The Young Athlete Program

UPMC Sports Medicine’s Young Athlete Program provides individualized attention for injury prevention and management. Regardless of age or sport, we have the expertise, technology, and services to make a difference for your young athlete.

Call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) for more information or to make an appointment.

Physical Therapy

Our partner, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, offers your young athlete physical therapy at more than 50 locations throughout western Pa.

Call 1-888-723-4CRS (4277) to find an office near you or to make an appointment.

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