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Shoulder Pain and Injuries in Volleyball Athletes

Whether your volleyball athlete is just starting their season or has been training year-round, shoulder pain is not normal and can hinder an athlete’s performance. When a volleyball player is thinking about shoulder pain they likely aren’t focusing on communication with their teammates or on the next big play.

What causes shoulder pain in volleyball athletes?

A bad warm-up session, poor mechanics, strength deficits, or lack of rest can all be possibilities of why a volleyball player’s shoulder may hurt.

What are shoulder injury prevention tips for volleyball athletes?

Athletes should properly prepare for their season with strength training; including upper body, core and legs. Hitting a volleyball takes the whole body, so focus should include more than just the upper body. During a competitive season, maintenance workouts should be done 1-2 times per week and once a season has been completed, the athlete should be given 1-2 weeks off to let the body rest, recover and reflect.

A proper warm-up will also help prevent shoulder pain and a light jog followed by dynamic stretching is a great place to begin. Throwing the volleyball back and forth with a partner or against a wall will help the shoulder get ready to hit. Begin hitting the volleyball at 50 percent effort and increase with each swing.

Mechanics are key!

If an athlete is having chronic, nagging shoulder pain, odds are it could be his or her hitting mechanics. Talk to a professional who is educated on proper hitting mechanics and errors that can lead to injury. Video analysis is a great tool to analyze form. This is the best way to pick up on any mechanical errors and show the athlete in slow motion what they need to correct.

Because hitting takes the whole body, a proper approach should be made to the ball in order to build momentum. Once in the air, the core, chest, shoulder and elbow need to work together to create maximum power. The non-hitting arm should stay high until ball contact. The hitting arm should follow through down by the athlete’s side.

When should you get your athlete’s shoulder checked?

Soreness at the beginning of a season or after a long tournament is normal. Ongoing pain before, during or after play should be questioned. This can be a sign of rotator cuff tendinitis or impingement. Immediate sharp pain after a hard swing, fall, or awkward hit should also be a red flag. Common injuries that occur are muscle tears, labral tears and subluxations (partial dislocation). If using ice and rest does not help your athlete’s pain, they should seek advice from a sports medicine physician. Sports injuries are treated best when caught early!

A healthy, strong volleyball player will be most effective on the court. If you’re concerned your student athlete has a shoulder injury, contact our Sports Medicine department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at 614-355-6000 to schedule an appointment.download_now

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Sara Breidigan, MS, AT, ATC
Sara Breidigan, MS, AT, ATC is a certified athletic trainer with Nationwide Children's Hospital Sports Medicine and an assistant athletic trainer at Ohio Dominican University. Before joining Nationwide Children's Sports Medicine, Sara worked as an assistant athletic trainer at Butler University, where she worked with the women's volleyball, women's swimming and men's and women's track teams. Sara completed her Master's degree in Exercise Science at The University of Toledo. At UT, Sara worked with the Rockets' volleyball team, men's tennis team, and was an approved clinical instructor for the undergraduate athletic training education program.

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