4 Ways to Prevent Ankle Injuries in Volleyball Players (updated)

by | Nov 15, 2022 | ankle injury, injury prevention, News Articles

Do you want to know how to prevent ankle sprains in volleyball players? Volleyball has a large following amongst adults and young athletes, and the question is often asked by volleyball coaches, athletes, and parents. Even Kiera van Ryk, a member of the Canada women’s national volleyball team, had an ankle injury a few years ago. She returned from the injury sooner than expected and is currently the best server across the male and female games, based on her Volleyball Nation’s League ranking.

We discuss the most common volleyball injuries amongst adults and young athletes, and how to prevent ankle sprains.

Most Common Volleyball Injuries In Adults And Young Athletes

There are common injuries all volleyball players share, whether youths or adults. These occur across North America, based on an article by the Children’s Hospital Colorado, United States. In their experience, injury patterns between beach and indoor volleyball differ, but they share similar injuries. The common volleyball injuries among young athletes according to the hospital are:

Ankle injuries. Ankle sprains are the most prevalent in youth athletes and occur most commonly at the net. Recurrent ankle injuries within six months of the original sprains are common due to inadequate rehabilitation.

Hand injuries. Finger injuries happen during setting and blocking, involving dislocations, tendon tears and joint sprains.

Knee injuries. The sport requires a lot of repetitive explosive jumping, so nearly 50% of volleyball athletes develop patellar tendinitis, “jumper’s knee”, at some stage. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are not frequent but can be a more serious injury.

Shoulder injuries. Young athletes typically have pain from shoulder instability and resulting impingement, rather than the rotator cuff tendinitis often seen in adults.

Lower back pain. The lower back bones experience a lot of stress due to their repetitive hyperextension during setting and hitting. It leads to spondylolysis, stress fractures of the vertebra in the spine. It is prevalent in adolescents because their vertebral bones are still weak in that specific area.

Causes/Risk Factors Of Ankle Sprains

Roughly 20% of volleyball players will suffer an injury at some point in their career, with ankle sprains making up roughly 50% of all injuries experienced in volleyball athletes across all skill levels. Luckily, ankle sprains can be prevented with education and coaching on proper skill techniques/mechanics, as well as specific conditioning exercises such as balance and proprioceptive exercises. The therapists at Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic have worked with numerous volleyball players from young athletes just learning the sport to higher-level rep players from clubs in Oakville/Mississauga such as Pakmen Volleyball. The team at SPSC can help identify athletes at risk for injury as well as quickly and efficiently rehabilitate volleyball athletes who have suffered an injury.

Most ankle sprains (89%) occur around the net from landing after a block or an attack. They generally result from stepping on the foot of an opponent or a teammate. The greatest risk factor for an ankle sprain is a previous history of ankle injuries, especially if it occurred in the past 6-12 months and was not rehabilitated properly.

Ankle Sprain Prevention Strategies

Volleyball Canada suggests players add strength training to their daily and weekly routines to reduce the risk of injury, increasing the training frequency during down times. What strategies can you use to prevent ankle sprains?

  • One of the most effective prevention strategies is education and training regarding proper take off and landing technique during blocking and attacks. More specifically, players should be taught to jump straight up to hit the ball, instead of forward, so that they will not land on the centre line under the net. In addition, players need to practice take off and landing during 2 man blocks.
  • Proprioceptive training to improve stability and balance. Proprioceptive exercises should be included in every warm up, and should only take 5 minutes to complete. They will generally involve the use of balance boards, bosu, trampolines, and ladders. For example: a. player standing on one leg and tosses a ball to another player or against wall 10/leg x 5 sets. B. Single leg stance on the balance board/bosu for 30 sec x 2 sets. C. Mini squats on balance board 10x 2 sets. D. Ladder drills to work on agility and coordination.
  • Proper rehabilitation post ankle injury in order to prevent reoccurrence includes regular proprioceptive training and wearing ankle protection. According to the Pedorthic Association of Canada, if an athlete has a minor ankle injury with minimal swelling and some pain, a gradual return to full athletic activities can happen within approximately two weeks. A major ankle injury with swelling, bruising and bleeding will take longer, and medical advice must be followed. They also suggest athletes replace their shoes if the sole is worn on the outside, as it increases the risk of going over on the ankle.
  • The use of support (brace or tape) to protect the ankle. Research has shown that bracing/taping decreases the incidence of ankle sprains in previously sprained ankles, but not in previously uninjured ankles. The greatest risk of reinjury is during the first year post ankle sprain, due to weakness in the ligament and proprioceptive ability, as such athletes should brace/tape for the first year post injury.

Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic has been treating athletes of all ages and skill levels for over 10 years in the Oakville and Mississauga area. If you’re currently injured, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists, chiropractors, athletic therapists or massage therapists in order to help get you back on the court healthy and pain-free.

If you’re not currently injured, the therapists at Sheddon can get you started on an injury prevention and strengthening program by working on your specific weaknesses and imbalances to help prevent any future injuries. If you’re looking for a sports medicine clinic in the Oakville and Mississauga area that has great therapists AND will get you results quickly, then contact Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic at 905-849-4576.

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