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Northern Beaches Beach Volleyball

Prevent volleyball injuries on the Northern Beaches

It’s summer beach volleyball tournament season again here in God’s country, the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Which means it’s time to slip on the active wear, slop on some sunscreen and slap some overhead spikes (yes, yes I am proud of that one). Volleyball is one of Australia’s most popular sports; non-contact, great for fitness, minimal clothing, fun and you can enjoy it indoors as well as on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Many beaches around the country, such as Manly Beach, have permanent volleyball nets erected, signifying its growing popularity and offering the opportunity to play whenever you want.

Unfortunately, both indoor and outdoor volleyball can be tough on the body if correct warm-up procedures aren’t followed, especially if your body is still in winter fitness mode. Knowing how your body reacts to different movements involved is an important first step in avoiding injuries, something your local Dee Why physio knows all about.

The differences between indoor and outdoor volleyball mechanics

Beach volleyball differs from indoor in one fundamental way when it comes to biomechanics. The playing surface is loose sand and only 2 players cover the same distance as 6 would cover indoor. The difference in surface alone can result in changes to the execution of various performance skills where pushing off the ground is required.  When pushing off to initiate movements such as jumping, diving and short sprinting the foot sinks in the sand; increasing the push-off phase, requiring more energy, increasing instability and requiring extra engagement of the quads, gluts and core. This need for extra exertion of energy is why indoor athletes will frequently use beach programs as conditioning activities.

Common injuries and exercises to help prevent them

Rotator Cuff overuse – Shoulder warmup

The rotator cuff is comprised of four small muscles within in the shoulder that hold the ball of your shoulder into the socket. Beach volleyballers suffer shoulder overuse injuries at a higher rate than indoor players due to executing more overhead serves and shots, along with having to cover more ground and make plays from more variable positions. Sports physiotherapists recommend warming up the rotator cuff before play. Here is a simple warmup for the right shoulder. Take your waterbottle and hold it by just the top. Keeping the bottle upright at all times, slowly draw circles around your head like drawing a halo. 20 times in one direction followed by 20 times in the other direction will definitely get that shoulder firing! Do 3 sets.

Ankle sprains – Ankle warmup

Ankle sprains are the most common injury in indoor volleyball. Inversion sprains (where the ankle is turned inward) account for 80% of all ankle sprains. Athletes who have sustained an ankle inversion injury within the previous 6–12 months are about 10 times more likely to suffer a repeat injury than those without a history of recent injury.

To warm up your ankles and ensure that they are ready for play we need to put it through lateral movement. Due to the explosive nature of volleyball I recommend explosive side to side hops, trying to land at least 30cm apart. Do 30 repetitions on one leg and then switch. Repeat 3 times for each leg.

Knee overuse (Jumper’s Knee or Patellar Tendinitis) – Kneeling/Walking lunge

Volleyball is the most common sport to find jumper’s knee injuries. Characterised by pain at the insertion sites of the patella tendon onto the kneecap, jumper’s knee can cause ongoing pain and restrict movement in daily activities. The kneeling lunge stretch is a classic hip flexor and quads stretch designed as a functional strengthening aspect of the strength progression phase of jumper’s knee recovery. When performing the kneeling lunge stretch, keep an upright posture, tuck your buttocks underneath you and allow the torso to move slightly forward with your hips and knees. The hip being stretched is the one with the knee on the ground. Keep weight primarily on the grounded knee using your front and back foot for balance. If this exercise is painful for you, make sure you bring it up with your sports physiotherapist at your next appointment.

The Beaches Sports Physio keeps up to date with the latest in diagnosis and treatment of many sports specific injuries and our multifactorial approach to our consultations ensures that no stone is left unturned in creating a bespoke program for your needs. Whether you play organised volleyball or just muck around with friends we’re sure you don’t want to spend any unnecessary time on the sidelines. By following a comprehensive and personalised exercise, stretching and warm up program you can drastically reduce sport related injuries. Ask your local sports physiotherapist how.

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