Volleyball is a favorite sport played by over 800 million participants world-wide, according to the International Volleyball Federation. In the United States alone, there were more than 172,000 volleyball-related injuries that were treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms in 2001, according to the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission.

Sprains and strains account for two-thirds or more of volleyball injuries. The ankle, hand-finger, knee and shoulder are the most common sites of injuries.

“Because volleyball is such an intense sport that requires quick physical responses involving the entire body, volleyball has a high risk of injury,” explained James Herndon, MD, orthopedic surgeon and president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. “If you play volleyball, you repeat similar movements, twist and turn to change direction abruptly, and jump and land over and over again on a hard gym floor. This is rough on the joints, particularly the knees and ankles.”

Volleyball requires a variety of physical attributes including speed, power, flexibility, strength and balance along with specific playing skills. It is important that participants train properly to meet the physical requirements necessary to cope with the demands of playing and reduce the risk of injury.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offers the following tips to prevent volleyball injuries:

Always take time to warm up and stretch. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

Use knee pads to protect yourself from injury when you fall or dive onto the court.

Wear lightweight shoes that provide strong ankle and arch support and offer good shock absorption. Add shock absorbers to the inside of the shoes to cushion joints from the impact of jumping and landing.

“Call” the ball to reduce the chance of colliding with another player.

Players should be taught how to use the largest muscle groups possible to achieve a desired result. For example, rather than use just shoulder muscles to create the hand speed needed to spike a ball, players should learn how to use the muscles in the trunk and hip to prevent common overuse injuries.

All players should incorporate shoulder strengthening exercises to increase the flexibility of the rotator cuff. Volleyball training should include spike coordination training drill with the shoulder joint held in different rotations. Visit www.aaos.org for specific training exercises.

Be knowledgeable about first aid and be able to administer it for minor injuries, such as facial cuts, bruises, or minor tendonitis, strains, or sprains.

Be prepared for emergency situations and have a plan to reach medical personnel to treat injuries such as concussions, dislocations, elbow contusions, wrist or finger sprains, and fractures.

An orthopedic surgeon is a physician with extensive training in the diagnosis and non-surgical as well as surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.

With more than 27,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopedic surgeons, allied health professionals and the public. An advocate for improved patient care, the Academy is participating in the Bone and Joint Decade, the global initiative in the years 2002-2011 to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health to stimulate research and improve people’s quality of life. President Bush has declared the years 2002-2011 National Bone and Joint Decade in support of these objectives.

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