Sometimes who is not able to compete in the IHSA girls’ volleyball tournament is as critical to a team’s success as who is.
Injuries – ranging from tendonitis to stress fractures to ACL tears – has sidelined a number of Illinois’ best and brightest players during this year’s tournament. This article explores the causes of ACL injuries in girls’ volleyball, the impact they can have on players, and what can be done to prevent them.
ACL injuries in girls volleyball
Volleyball is an extremely popular sport among girls, with nearly 22,000 high school girls participating in the sport in Illinois alone, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ most recent survey. While volleyball is generally considered a low-risk sport for injuries, one type of injury that is becoming increasingly common among female volleyball players is an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury.
What is an ACL injury?
The ACL is one of the four major ligaments in the knee that helps to stabilize the joint. It is responsible for preventing the tibia (shinbone) from sliding too far forward in relation to the femur (thighbone). An ACL injury occurs when this ligament is torn or stretched beyond its normal range of motion.
ACL injuries are common in sports that involve sudden stops, changes in direction, and jumping, such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball. They can range from a mild sprain to a complete tear, and can significantly impact an athlete’s ability to play their sport.
Causes of ACL injuries in girls volleyball
ACL injuries in girls volleyball are often caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Biomechanics: Female athletes are more likely to have an inward knee collapse when landing from a jump, which puts extra stress on the ACL. This is due to differences in hip and knee alignment between males and females.
- Muscle imbalances: Weakness in the muscles that support the knee, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings, can increase the risk of ACL injuries.
- Overuse: Volleyball players often perform repetitive movements, such as jumping and landing, which can put strain on the ACL over time.
- Inadequate training: Proper training and conditioning can help prevent ACL injuries, but many volleyball players do not receive adequate training in these areas.
- Playing surface: Hard or uneven playing surfaces can increase the risk of ACL injuries.
The impact of ACL injuries on volleyball players
ACL injuries can have a significant impact on volleyball players, both physically and mentally. They can result in a long recovery time, which means missing out on playing time and potentially affecting a player’s performance in the future.
ACL injuries can also have long-term consequences, such as an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knee. This can have a lasting impact on an athlete’s ability to participate in sports and other physical activities.
Preventing ACL injuries in girls volleyball
While ACL injuries cannot be completely prevented, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of them occurring. Here are some tips for preventing ACL injuries in girls volleyball:
Proper training and conditioning
Proper training and conditioning are essential for preventing ACL injuries. This includes strengthening the muscles that support the knee, improving balance and coordination, and practicing proper jumping and landing techniques.
Volleyball players should also incorporate exercises that focus on hip and knee alignment, as well as plyometric exercises that mimic the movements used in volleyball.
Warm-up and cool-down
Warming up before playing and cooling down after can help prevent injuries, including ACL injuries. A proper warm-up should include dynamic stretches and movements that prepare the body for the demands of volleyball.
Cooling down should include static stretches to help prevent muscle soreness and tightness.
Use proper equipment
Wearing proper equipment, such as knee pads, can help protect the knees from impact and reduce the risk of ACL injuries. Volleyball shoes with good ankle support can also help prevent ankle injuries, which can indirectly affect the knee.
Rest and recovery
Rest and recovery are crucial for preventing injuries in any sport. Volleyball players should listen to their bodies and take breaks when needed. Adequate rest and recovery time can help prevent overuse injuries, including ACL injuries.
The playing surface can also play a role in preventing ACL injuries. Volleyball players should avoid playing on hard or uneven surfaces, as these can increase the risk of injury. If possible, choose a court with a softer surface, such as a rubberized or synthetic court.
Real-world examples of ACL injury prevention in girls volleyball
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s volleyball team has implemented a comprehensive ACL injury prevention program that has significantly reduced the number of ACL injuries among their players.
Their program includes a combination of strength and conditioning exercises, plyometrics, and proper warm-up and cool-down routines. They also focus on proper jumping and landing techniques and have incorporated video analysis to help players improve their form.
ACL injuries in girls volleyball are becoming increasingly common, but they can be prevented. By implementing proper training and conditioning, warming up and cooling down, using proper equipment, and paying attention to the playing surface, the risk of ACL injuries can be reduced.
It is also important for coaches and trainers to educate players on the importance of proper form and technique, and to monitor their players for any signs of muscle imbalances or weaknesses that could increase the risk of injury.
By taking these steps, you can help keep our young female volleyball players safe and healthy, and allow them to continue playing the sport they love without the fear of injury.