GwenAlden, runs HealthWestTherapy in San Marcos, CA. There, where she is the Director of Physical Therapy and works with a variety of patients and diagnoses as well as specializes in volleyball injuries! Within the clinic, she also runs a Sports Performance Program geared to help athletes advance to the next level. Her expertise in volleyball injuries not only comes from her study of Physical Therapy, but she played for the University of Missouri as an outside hitter, while gaining her degree, and therefore, has a great understanding for the game and the demands on the body!!

NEWS FLASH: Injury Prevention Needed for Return to Volleyball

Volleyball, as we know it today, is widely played year round, whether you are an indoor fanatic or a competitive beach player, or both.  There is USUALLY no rest for the weary in this sport - but most of us wouldnt have it any other way. However for now, due to the coronavirus, we are forced to hang up our jerseys and our swimsuits and stay home. We have been at rest for almost two solid months. We are losing some ground physically. 

What does this mean for our bodies?  What are some things that we can be doing to stay active? What parts of our physical bodies are most apt to break down when we return? How best can we prevent injuries now, while we are not training and competing?  How much time should be devoted to these activities? Should we be doing anything else to prepare for our return to volleyball?

What does this mean for our bodies?

Due to the fact that we are pretty much constantly playing volleyball, a break from the repetitive motions we sustain will do the body good! So in that regard, it means rest, recovery, time to breathe and time to explore other meaningful things in our lives. On the other hand, training for our sport is a commodity that must be renewed; otherwise, we lose achieved sport-specific performance improvements (known as detraining or deconditioning) as well as the loss of aerobic capacity and endurance, strength, and power. We will also be more apt to injure ourselves upon return. Thats the short answer.

What are some things that we can be doing to stay active?

Volleyball requires short interval training, core stability, strength, power, jumping and the ability to change directions quickly. So, we want to do THESE things. Many of these activities will overlap during training.

  1. Short Interval Training:  Short bursts of cardiovascular workouts are best. These include such activities as high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts using body weight or even equipment we may have at home, short sprints or short distance hill running drills with rest in between or even doing transitional footwork drills that we would perform on the court for 30-60 seconds at a time. Repeat many times. Think. Tie breaker set, score is tied, championship is on the line! One more sprint! You win!  Crowd goes wild! The point is that its important to keep up this kind of sport-specific cardiovascular fitness versus something like long distance running.

  2. Core Stability: Core stability should be implemented. Every. Single. Day. Core muscles include the muscles of the abdominals, low back, middle and upper back, shoulders and hips. The work done for these areas will help to maintain a foundation for volleyball, plain and simple.  Without a strong core, we will break down and be more prone to injury anywhere in the body. And we all know, once we get back, we dont want to be out of the game for One More Day.

  3. Strength: Strength at home can be accomplished with our high intensity interval training workouts or just a simple circuit or station work for several sets and repetitions.  Sample exercises include squats, step ups, lunges, burpees, push ups, exercises with a loop band or a theraband and any core exercises.

  4. Power: Power is a tough one without some equipment. But, in volleyball we describe power as force x speed. So besides the strength that we can maintain with exercises as noted above, we can most definitely work on our speed.  Activities can include timed jump rope as fast as possible, ladder drills on the sidewalk with a chalked out ladder, cone jumps, line jumps, transition drills while pretending we are on the court, jump ups, jump downs to then jump up and the list goes on. Change it up every day. If we increase our speed, we will in turn increase our power. 

  5. Jumping: Jumping, not only for power, is vital to our volleyball training. Work on hitting approaches, jump serve footwork, squat jumps, block jumps, jump ups and downs with attention to your mechanics.  We dont want the knees to fall inward.

  6. Change of Direction: Changing of direction can be carried out with shuttle runs, side to side shuffles, block drills like we would do in practice, peppering and ball drills with a partner, cone touching drills, transitional drills at our pretend net, and fun games such as tag.

What parts of our physical bodies are most apt to break down when we return?

The most common injuries seen in volleyball are ankles, knees and shoulders.

How best can we prevent injuries now, while we are not training and competing?

The activities listed above are a great place to start - short interval training, core stability, strength, power, jumping and change direction drills. But more specifically, we can perform prehabilitative exercises for the joints that are most prone to injury to help prepare for our return.

  1. Ankles: The best way to prevent ankle injuries is to work side to side and change of direction. Single leg hops and strengthening activities as well as balance on a single leg with varying surfaces (hard even surfaces, the grass, the sand if you have access, a pillow) are also great ways to prevent ankle injuries. 

  2. Knees: The key for injury prevention of the knees is to keep our hips strong. Many knee injuries come from instability at the hip, and as noted above, the hips are an essential part of our core. Also, jump. Jump with attention to your mechanics, jump to jump, and change it up daily. If we arent jumping now, our knees will surely suffer, and we will spend more time down from that due to pain and dysfunction. No thank you.

  3. Shoulders: As far as our shoulders, we will need to keep working on our volleyball arm swing and serving form, preferably with a ball. Performing rotator cuff strengthening exercises and keeping our upper back and shoulder blades engaged and strong will also help prevent common overuse syndromes.

How much time should be devoted to these activities?

If your on court and workout time included 4 hours a week, workout 4 hours a week.  If it included 8 hours a week, workout 8 hours a week.  Manage your intensity to that of your practice intensity and include each aspect of the activities listed - short interval training, core stability, strength, power, jumping, changing directions and injury prevention.  As noted, many overlap. Any time touching the volleyball should also be counted in your total work time. We havent discussed stretching and flexibility, but include that time as well.


Should we be doing anything else to prepare for our return to volleyball?

Yes, there is more that we can do to prepare for our return!  Lets stay in the game with our minds - keep them sharp.  Watch volleyball as much as possible. Keep in contact with our teammates and coaches. Visualize ourselves performing individual skills to a T as well as visualizing team competition to perfection. Envision success on all levels. Be kind. Lets eat well. Stick to a routine as much as possible. Be thankful. And last but not least, touch a volleyball EVERY SINGLE DAY in some capacity!

If we work with intention during this break, we will come back strong to our favorite pastime without missing a beat.  We may have to dust off our skills a bit to get back to where we were; but, if we can prevent injuries by working NOW, we will be ahead of our competition, and we wont need to miss ONE MORE DAY of VOLLEYBALL than needed.

Author: Gwen Alden, PT


HealthWest Therapy

1482 La Mirada Drive

San Marcos, CA 92078