Ask a Vail Sports Doc column: Volleyball injuries span shoulders, legs and hands |

Ask a Vail Sports Doc column: Volleyball injuries span shoulders, legs and hands

Unfortunately, volleyball isn't always fun and games, and injuries do happen. Some of the most common volleyball injuries include rotator cuff tendonitis, ankle sprains, patellar tendonitis and finger injuries. Here's a closer look at these injuries and effective treatment options.

• Rotator cuff tendonitis — Rotator cuff tendonitis is often associated with repetitive overhead activities, and we see it in patients who do housekeeping, construction work and various other actions and sports, such as throwing and volleyball. There is inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and the lubricating bursa above the tendons. The most common symptom is an aching pain in the shoulder that radiates down the outside of the upper arm.

Treatment usually includes rest or activity modification to limit overhead activities, ice to the affected area, anti-inflammatory medications (Advil, ibuprofen, Aleve, etc.), and physical therapy/home exercise programs to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles in a way that does not inflame the tendons further.

• Ankle sprains — Ankle sprains are common in volleyball. Typically, a player comes down after jumping and lands unevenly on the court or sand. Pain is usually immediate, often followed by swelling and bruising. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched too far and tear. Sprains can range from mild to severe.

Mild sprains can be treated with rest, icing the ankle, elevation and compression to decrease swelling. Serious sprains can make your ankle more susceptible to future sprains. This type of sprain is often treated with rest, immobilization in a removable boot, crutches and possibly surgery if the ankle remains unstable even with conservative treatment.

• Patellar tendonitis — Patellar tendonitis is inflammation to the tendon connecting the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shin bone). This tendon assists with muscles to allow the leg to fully straighten, which is essential to many sports that involve running, kicking and jumping. It is often called "jumper's knee," as it often occurs in sports where jumping is frequent, including volleyball and basketball. Pain is often localized right below the patella and can be painful to the touch.

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Treatment usually includes rest, ice, limiting jumping activities, a patellar tendon strap and physical therapy/home exercises.

• Finger sprains — Finger sprains are common in volleyball and occur most often when a player is blocking the opposing team as they spike the ball. The finger is usually bent in an unusual way that causes injury to the ligaments that support the bones of the finger joints. Pain is usually immediate to the injured joint, and swelling and bruising is common. There is often restriction of the movement of the finger due to pain.

Treatment usually consists of ice, rest and taping the finger to the adjoining normal finger while the ligaments heal.

Dr. Richard Cunningham is a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon and knee and shoulder specialist with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. Gretchen Meador, P.A.C., is a physician assistant to Cunningham. For more information about Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, visit