Knee and ankle injuries are the most common injuries seen in youth volleyball. Parents and coaches should take precautions to be sure their players don’t suffer sudden or overuse injuries. This reference guide provides information on the most common volleyball injuries requiring treatment.
A common injury in volleyball is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain or tear, which occurs when the knee is twisted forcefully or hyperextended. This often occurs when landing from a jump, changing direction on the court or when colliding with another player. Athletes with a damaged ACL often describe a pop at the time of injury, followed by a significant amount of swelling within a few hours after the injury.
Athletes should see their pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine physician if pain and/or swelling persist after PRICE treatment (shown below). In addition:
- In younger athletes, bone maturity helps to determine the treatment plan. Injury to an open growth plate requires special consideration by a pediatric orthopedic specialist.
- Training in proper jumping and landing technique may help to prevent this injury.
Knee pain that comes on slowly over time can indicate other problems, such as:
- Patello-femoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee) – pain in the front of the knee related to muscle and tissue stress around the kneecap. This can be addressed with proper training in physical therapy.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans – a defect in the knee’s cartilage that can become evident over time during repetitive activity such as jumping
- Osgood-Schlatter Disease – stress-related inflammation in a growth center at the front of the knee.
The most common injury in sports is a lateral ankle sprain. This injury occurs in volleyball by rolling the ankle over the outside of the foot. This often occurs when landing from a block, planting for a sudden change of direction or jumping for a spike attempt. A lateral ankle sprain causes damage to the ligaments just below the bone on the outside of the ankle. In some cases, a “pop” is felt or heard by the athlete.
Treatment recommendations vary with the severity of the injury:
- Mild sprains require rest, but not necessarily medical treatment (follow the PRICE treatment plan shown below).
- Injuries with persistent swelling, pain or any deformity should be seen by a physician.
Because of repeatedly moving their arms overhead, volleyball players can suffer overuse injuries to their shoulders. These injuries occur when tissue such as muscle, tendon, bone or cartilage is damaged by repetitive motion activities. Without ample time for recovery, the tissue cannot adapt to the demands placed on it, and further damage is likely.
The body responds to repetitive stress with inflammation that causes pain. Overuse injuries, also called chronic sports injuries, include can have symptoms including:
- Pain when performing the activity or sport
- Intermittent swelling
- Decreasing performance
- Dull pain even at rest
If the symptoms persist, take your child to see a pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine physician. In each consecutive season, repetitive maneuvers by certain body parts can lead to fatigue and long-term damage.
Bumps, bruises, twists and muscle strains
These can affect all areas of the body. The recommended treatment response is the PRICE formula:
- Protect the area with a sling or crutches, if necessary.
- Rest the injured area.
- Ice the injury for 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin.
- Compress the injured area with a wrap. Do not pull tightly, as this can cut off circulation.
- Elevate the injured area above the heart, if possible.
Athletes should see a pediatrician or pediatric sports medicine physician if any of these symptoms are present:
- Limping lasting more than 48 hours
- Soft tissue swelling that gets worse the next day despite ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Motrin®
- Effusion – mobile soft tissue swelling on both sides of a joint, often easily seen at the knee or ankle
- Pain that returns quickly with activity at the next session or is not gone after two weeks of forced rest
Children ages 5 to 14 make up almost 40% of all sports injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms. Injuries in children are best handled by pediatric specialists trained in treating skeletally immature patients.
How to protect your child
Taking the following steps can reduce your child’s risk of getting hurt. As a parent, you should:
- Schedule your child for an annual physical before playing sports
- Monitor play and practice and encourage players to abide by the rules
- Have a first-aid kit handy and an emergency action plan in place. Appropriate shelter should also be close by in case of a storm with lightning
- Keep sports fun! Remember to be positive and don’t push kids to perform beyond their abilities
Make sure your young athlete:
- Wears appropriate properly fitting safety gear, free of heavy wear and tear
- Stays properly hydrated. Kids don’t sweat as much as adults and need to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after activity
- Does warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after practices and games
- Gets proper rest and avoids overdoing it.