Beach volleyball season is just about ready to start here in Kansas City – two weeks until we don our sand socks and step out onto the sand at Volleyball Beach. I’m excited – it’s been five months since I’ve played a competitive game out on the sand, so I’m very much looking forward to stepping out on the courts and getting my groove back on. The first week or two is going to hurt, but that’s the price I pay for complete sloth during the off-season.
However, one thing I’m determined to avoid this year is shoulder injuries. I made a sacrificing dive on the hardwood last year on the first play of the first game of indoor volleyball season (yes, I know it was stupid to lay out on the hardwood) and ended up messing up my shoulder. After visiting the doc when it wasn’t better after a couple of months he told me to take it easy on it…so I learned how to hit with my left hand. I’m good now – and determined not to re-injure it.
Based on a study of volleyball injuries, it’s estimated that 25% of volleyball players experience shoulder pain. It’s easy to see why – the intent of a spike is to hit the ball as hard as possible, which means extending your arm and then swinging your arm hard – something that puts tremendous strain on your shoulder. Couple that with the shock when you lay out for a ball with an extended arm and land hard and it’s a wonder that 25% is the estimate and not 75%.
Prevention is pretty easy, however, and while it may not prevent 100% of the injuries to your shoulder it can certainly minimize them.
To start with, always warm-up. Warming up improves circulation to the muscles which – literally – warms them up. Arm swings are one of my favorites, but anything that dynamically stretches the shoulder muscles works. Check out this link for some good ones.
During the game, know your limits. If you feel your shoulder tightening up take some time and stretch it. If you feel sharp pain STOP. If you need to sit out a play do it – don’t sacrifice your long-term shoulder health for a short-term win. There’s some validity to “play through the pain”, but don’t be stupid about it.
Finally, warm-down. This is something I’m pretty bad at – when I’m done it’s usually after three or four hours straight of playing and the last thing I want to do (especially early on in the season) is exercise some more; all I want to do is rest. While warming-down is not likely to prevent injuries immediately, what it does do is increase your flexibility for the next session. Warming down helps increase your muscles range of motion, giving you a better starting point for next time.
With beach volleyball season getting underway make sure you get the opportunity to enjoy the full season and don’t find yourself sidelined with a shoulder injury.
(post image – and tips – courtesy of My Housecall MD)