Volleyball Sports Performance- Injury Prevention
Volleyball matches can be hard-hitting on the joints. Between diving on the floor and continuous jumping to block, serve, or spike, the game itself is a recipe for bumps and bruises. You’ve got to time split second reactions, sacrifice your body on the floor, and land athletically just to leap back up again to stop a point, all while avoiding colliding with your teammates.
How you train and play at a young age sets the foundation for performance in college, internationally, or just pick up ball in the park. The longer you can outlast injury, the more you can work at honing your craft. While you want to get the reps, you also need to make sure you can play through the season unscathed. Sure, you’ll get some battle scars along the way. But if you do these four things, you can outlast any serious injury and stay in fighting shape.
Prevent Injury – Stay Mobile
With better range of motion, the further your muscles and tendons can stretch across a joint before injury. If things are all tied up in there, one wrong landing can mean a sprained ankle. If your muscles and tendons aren’t mobile, they won’t respond to sudden external loads as well. Therefore, all the pressure gets put in the joint , and you risk injuries of the CFL or ATFL, which are fancy acronyms for ligaments in ankle or high ankle sprains. However, most knee or ankle injuries originate from the hip and general tightness down the kinetic chain. Lack of mobility in the hips or ankles creates bad landing mechanics, which, over time, contributes to more repeated stress on the lower leg.
Pigeon, frog and hurdler’s stretches can be implemented in the warm up. Banded distraction with a hip extension bias in the lunge can also create more room in that hip joint and open up our hip flexors. Finally, the calves, peroneals and tibialis anterior get surprisingly tight with all of that jumping. Spend a few minutes every day with a foam roller or peanut pinned between your calves, shins and the floor to roll out some of those adhesions.
Train for more than just looks
As teens are developing athletically, it’s also a time when training for looks can be tempting. While in some cases having more muscle can help protect you from injury, training solely for size can make you unbalanced. Excessive use and tightness can mean strains or chronic, overuse injuries. Rather than fighting your own body to produce force, create a balanced system that performs like a well-oiled machine.
While your legs may look great in those shorts, don’t forget to balance out the big players with the smaller, less noticeable muscles. Weak and tight calves are strong contributors to repetitive use injuries such as shin splints, and improper hamstring and glute med strength leaves many athletes landing with their knees buckled. While much of this can be attributed to improper mechanics, the more we balance things out, the less likely we are to injure ourselves while focusing on setting up the winning spike.
Train your balance and posterior chain at the same time with body weight single leg RDL’s. Banded crab walks activate the glutes in the perfect landing position. Multi-directional lunges also help stabilize the ankle, as do prehab exercises such as calf raises and single leg balancing. Make it a game and practice hitting the ball back and forth while balancing on one leg. The more stable you can get in an athletic position – knees slightly bent and tracking with the ankle, weight on the balls of your feet, glutes engaged – the better you’ll be at jumping anyways.
Start with bodyweight and bands first – light resistance but perfect form. Add 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps of these exercises to your warm up. Set a strength foundation here, and then progress to broad jumps or goblet squats.
Get Proper Nutrition to Perform
If I had to pick one area in which most young athletes are lacking, it would be nutrition. Sodas and sugary foods spike your insulin levels unnecessarily. Even “sports drinks” can cause problems if used outside of the training window. Over time, your body loses sensitivity to insulin and it starts to forget to respond to it. And that’s bad news for athletes, as insulin is what tells us to uptake the carbs we need for energy. Add to that the saturated and trans fats from fast and fried foods, and you’ve got a recipe for a slow metabolism. Since metabolism is what provides us with energy, ignoring good nutritional habits makes us feel worse, slows recovery, and lowers performance.
To stay at the top of your game, feed your body a good balance of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, lean protein and omega 3 fats. And make sure you’re getting enough food overall to fuel performance. A good volleyball match demands your full attention – so keep those energy levels from spiking and dropping by feeding yourself well. Avoid fried or sugary foods and drink plenty of water. After the match, enjoy some chocolate milk to recover.. Attention to these details can make the difference between making it to the next level or not.
Avoid doing too much too soon
I know you want to be the next Kerri Walsh-Jennings or Misty May-Traenor, but give yourself the time to get there. Doing too much too soon can put you at high risk for a serious injury. The pressures from parents, coaches, teammates, colleges and more drives lots of young athletes to push beyond their limits. It’s okay to train hard, but be sure to listen to your body. If you feel like you’re breaking down, or something feels not right, train accordingly.
Too often I see young athletes burn out or get a career threatening injury before they turn 18. Get set up with a good strength and conditioning program, have someone monitor your jumps and training hours per week, and have a balanced life off the court.
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