Epidemiology of Common Injuries in the Volleyball Athlete

Injury epidemiology in volleyball athletes:


Volleyball is a popular global sport with two main disciplines: indoor and beach volleyball. It is considered a safe sport but involves repetitive jumping and overhead motions that can cause acute and overuse injuries.

Injury Patterns

– Lower extremity injuries are most common (50-60% of injuries), with ankle sprains being the top injury across all levels of play, especially during competition.
– Knee injuries like patellar tendinopathy are frequent overuse injuries.
– Upper extremity injuries account for 20-30% of injuries. Finger/thumb injuries occur often from blocking. Shoulder overuse injuries like rotator cuff tendinopathy and instability are common in hitters/blockers.
– Concussions make up a substantial portion of injuries, with higher rates than many contact sports. Ball-to-head contact is a frequent mechanism.

Evidence Base

– Injury surveillance data over 10+ years through NCAA ISS and HS RIO provides robust longitudinal data on collegiate and high school volleyball. Overall injury rates may be decreasing.
– Evidence at the professional/elite level relies on single-season studies of one team or tournament play. The FIVB ISS shows promise for more systematic data collection.
– Few studies have examined beach volleyball injuries. More research is needed at all levels.


– Ankle braces may help prevent first-time and recurrent ankle sprains. Balance training is also beneficial.
– Shoulder strengthening programs that target rotator cuff and scapular muscles may reduce upper extremity injuries.
– Rule changes to allow blocking with open hands could reduce finger injuries.
– Limiting overhead exposure in training may prevent overuse shoulder injuries.


– While volleyball has relatively low injury rates, ongoing surveillance and prevention efforts are important, especially to reduce ankle sprains and concussions.
– High-quality prospective studies on professional/elite beach volleyball are lacking and should be a focus for future research to guide prevention initiatives.

In summary, this review highlights what is known regarding volleyball injury epidemiology but also gaps in the literature, particularly at the professional/elite level and for beach volleyball. Continued research through injury surveillance programs and rigorous comparative studies on prevention measures are needed to better understand and reduce injuries.

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© 2023 Dr. Robert Afra – San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Shoulder – Knee – Elbow