Common Volleyball Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Our expert weighs in.
How to Prevent Common Volleyball Injuries


Excitement and energy are in the air as volleyball players and coaches prepare to head into the gym to begin summer training. As with any sport, injury prevention and identification are key components of a successful volleyball season. What are the most common volleyball injuries and how can coaches, players, and trainers prevent them?

We asked an expert.

“The most common injuries that occur in female volleyball players involve the shoulders, knees, and ankles.” Dave Kohlreiser*, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Sports Certified Specialist, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Orthopedic One in Columbus, Ohio, shares his insight on the most common injuries seen in volleyball, as well as tips on preventing them.

Common Shoulder Injuries in Volleyball Players:

Shoulder Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

 What are the Risk Factors?

  • Muscular imbalances throughout shoulder girdle
    • Weak postural and musculature around the shoulder blades
    • Weak posterior rotator cuff musculature
    • Tight and shortened musculature on the anterior aspect of the shoulder
  • Decreased Internal rotation range of motion (glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit) common in overhead athletes

Recommended Exercises for Shoulder Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Prevention:

  • Cross body stretch
  • Pec/anterior shoulder stretch
  • Sleeper stretch
  • Prone T, Y, W
  • External rotation at neutral and at 90 deg
  • Rows


Common Knee Injuries in Volleyball Players:

Patellofemoral Pain (Pain Around the Knee Cap)

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Muscular imbalances throughout lower extremity
    • Tight quadriceps, hip flexors, and calf musculature
    • Weak posterior chain — Gluteals and Hamstrings
  • Poor lower extremity and lumbopelvic control
    • Decreased core and gluteal muscle strength

Recommended Exercises for Patellofemoral Pain (Pain Around the Knee Cap) Prevention:

  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Calf stretches
  • Prone quad stretch
  • Band walking
  • Lateral step downs
  • Bridges
  • Side planks
  • TRX single leg mini squats
  • Clamshells
  • RDL
  • Squats with band around thighs



Common Ankle Injuries in Volleyball Players:

Lateral Ankle Sprains

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Muscular imbalances
  • Decreased balance/proprioception
  • Ligamentous laxity from previous ankle sprains
    • Decreased coordination
  • Improper footwear during training and conditioning

Recommended Exercises for Lateral Ankle Sprain Prevention:

  • 4 way band exercise
  • Single leg heel raises
  • Steamboats
  • Progressive proprioception/balance drills on unstable surfaces (airex, BOSU)
  • Use of an ASO brace for those with a history of previous ankle sprain


Achilles Tendinitis

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Muscular imbalances (tight calf musculature)
  • Rapid progression in training volume
  • Weakness in ankle musculature
  • Improper footwear

Recommended Exercises for Achilles Tendinitis Prevention:

  • Gastrocnemius stretch
  • Soleus stretch
  • Foam rolling throughout calf musculature
  • Heel raises
  • Eccentric heel raises
  • 4-way ankle Tband exercises



How important is warming up and stretching prior to practice or games to help prevent injury?

Prior to any training routine or sports participation, it is extremely important for athletes to perform some type of dynamic warm-up activity.  This type of warm-up routine should consist of some type of light cardio type exercise but should also include functional movements that include all the muscles and joints that would be involved in sport performance. A very general example would be light jogging for several minutes followed by lateral shuffle around the court, walking lunges across the baseline, jumping jacks, and arm circles. It is important to “warm up” any muscle groups prior to completing a static stretching routine.

What about strength training and conditioning? What role does that play in injury prevention and what types of exercises should coaches be recommending/requiring?

A tailored and structured strength and conditioning program is a key component to any injury prevention program.  A quick screening by an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or strength coach will help identify any muscular imbalances that may contribute to injury.  The strength and conditioning program should include some corrective type exercises targeting identified deficits in addition to strengthening musculature likely to improve an athlete’s performance.

What other tips do you have for the best chance at preventing injury?

Planned rest is a key to any injury prevention program.

It is important that the athlete avoids overtraining. Athletes should also be encouraged to maintain other interests or other workout type activities beyond their specific sport or training program to maintain their fitness levels, but also enjoy themselves and prevent burn out.  A good nutrition program including adequate hydration is a key component to maximizing performance and preventing illness/injury.

About Dave:

Volleyball injury preventionDave Kohlrieser, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS

Dave Kohlrieser has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and a doctorate of physical therapy degree. He is a board-certified sports and orthopedic clinical specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association. He is also certified as a strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He completed a sports physical therapy residency program with University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers, Centers for Rehab Services. His professional sports experiences include an affiliation with the Pittsburgh Steelers and working as a physical therapist for the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He was previously a faculty member of the sports physical therapy residency program at OSU Sports Medicine at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.  Dave currently coordinates rehabilitation for a variety of surgical and non-surgical conditions at Orthopedic One in Columbus, Ohio.