Low back is a common complaint among volleyball players. That is not surprising based on the demands of the support.
When in their defensive stance and positions, players usually have their arms outstretched and are slouched or hunched over. We all know how great slouching is for the spine!
Also, all the hard impacts from landing after jumping or diving all over the place, to dig and get touches, can place a lot of compressive forces through and stress on the spine.
When serving or hitting the player must extend (lean backwards), usually hyperextend (excessively leaning backwards), and rotate his or her back in order to generate power to swing. Extension and rotation of the spine are natural movements, but when you perform them with as much repetition, force, and velocity as volleyball players do, they can turn into an issue.
In volleyball, and any sport that has a lot of repetitive extending and rotating, muscle strains in the lower back are common, and in worse cases, stress fractures of the vertebrae (bones that make up the spine) may occur, known as a spondylolysis.
A spondylolysis is when a portion of the vertebrae known as the pars interarticularis is defected or has a stress fracture. There is one pars interarticularis on each side of the vertebrae. If you are a right handed swinger, you may experience this on the right side. This is due to the fact that when you load and extend/rotate, you are doing so to the right since it is your hitting arm.
It is not uncommon however to experience a fracture to both pars interarticularis, again due to all the repetitive extension (hitting/serving) and compressive forces (landing) from the sport. When this occurs, it is known as a spondylolisthesis, and in this case, not only are those little bones fractured, but the vertebrae (bones that make up the spine) may slip forward.
If you’re a parent and you have read up to this point, you might be thinking to yourself,
“Why am I letting them play volleyball?!” or “I thought volleyball was a “safe” sport!”.
Please know I love volleyball, and my goal in writing this piece is not to discourage you from letting your kids play. The purpose is to educate, so we can try to prevent these things from happening.
With that said… What do we do?!
Stay tuned for my next post, 4 Tips To Help Prevent Overuse Injuries