Common Volleyball Shoulder Injuries and Treatments

Volleyball season often brings shoulder injuries to those who play.  This article will touch on some of the reasons why these injuries occur, how to treat them, and better yet, how to prevent them.

Volleyball is considered an overhead activity. Serving, spiking, setting, and blocking all involve reaching or swinging the arms, sometimes violently. Injuries can be traumatic or cumulative. Traumatic ones involve a sudden force or impact to the shoulder or arm and include rotator cuff tears, dislocations, subluxations (partial dislocations), and separations.

Cumulative injuries are more common and include diagnoses such as rotator cuff tendonitis, bursitis, or impingement syndrome. These often occur because the shoulder is a very unstable joint that relies on the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and capsule to control the motion. Overloading these tissues by playing for long durations (like at a picnic or while on vacation) can irritate and cause injury -especially if you are not used to these motions. Warming up with similar light activity or basic exercises (such as some jumping jacks) and stretching can help improve your chances of not being the one that gets hurt.

If shoulder soreness or pain persists, icing, stretching, and taking some nonprescription anti-inflammatories may be all you need to recover. However, persistent pain may require a trip to the doctor and possibly physical therapy. In PT, exercises to balance the shoulder strength and flexibility will likely be given. Control is needed to keep structures from getting overloaded or pinched for long-term results. (Searching online for basic scapular stabilization and rotator cuff exercises is an option for you overachievers out there.) Proper posture is also needed to put the shoulder in its place to function properly.  Modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation may also be utilized.

So whether you are playing volleyball for the first time in years or playing in sand leagues to keep sharp for the fall, give your shoulders a chance by warming up and playing for reasonable times. Enjoy the summer!

- Aaron Bewyer, D.P.T., M.P.T. at Physical Therapy - Merle Hay