Beach Volleyball Injuries

woman beach volleyball playerBeach volleyball first gained popularity in the 1920s in Santa Monica, California.  It is currently played worldwide at the recreational, professional, and Olympic levels.  A variant of indoor volleyball, the game is played with two players per team competing on a sand court.  Beach volleyball players must have a versatile skill set in comparison to indoor players who play with six members per team and more individual, specialized skills.  Despite its popularity relatively little is known about injuries specific to beach volleyball.

A 2003 study evaluating professional players detailed a relatively low rate of acute injuries.1 The most common injuries are to the knee, ankle, and finger.  Knee injuries can include tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), other knee ligament sprains, and meniscus tears.  Ankle sprains are relatively common injuries; however, the incidence appears to be about half of that seen in indoor volleyball.  There is only one blocker in beach volleyball removing the common injury mechanism seen in the indoor game where teammates interact during a two player block.1 Injuries to the finger occur mainly during blocking and overhand digs where the player defensively tries to stop the opponent’s spikes to the back court.  The volleyball impacts the fingers at a high velocity causing sprains to the finger joints and sometimes fractures of the phalanges and metacarpals. 

Overuse injuries may occur as seen in any sport requiring repetitive activity through training and competitions without adequate recovery time.  In the same 2003 study almost 40% of professional players reported an overuse injury.  The most common overuse injuries are seen in the low back, knee, and shoulder.  Spiking and overhead jump serves are thought to contribute to the incidence of lumbar pain with repetitive forceful rotation and hyperextension of the lower back.  Similarly these overhead motions and repeated shoulder rotations can lead to rotator cuff tendonopathy, tears, and lesions to the glenoid labrum common to racket and throwing sports.1 Over 75% of those athletes reporting an overuse injury to the knee had a diagnosis of patellar tendonopathy or jumper’s knee.  The incidence of jumper’s knee in beach volleyball players is much less than those players competing on the hard indoor courts. 

Although turf toe is more widely recognized from other sports, beach volleyball players can sustain a hyperplantarflexion injury to the metatarsophalangeal joints of their great and lesser toes called sand toe.2 Those athletes can have difficulty with jumping and push off for an extended period of time. 

Overall, beach volleyball is a relatively safe team sport with injury concerns primarily of overuse to the knee, shoulder, and lumbar spine.  Proper training and appropriate active rest may help minimize these injuries.  As with any outdoor sporting activity, prevention of environmental injury is important with adequate hydration and appropriate sunscreen for participants.          

1.  Bahr R and Reeser JC. Injuries among world-class professional beach volleyball players: the federation international de volleyball beach volleyball injury study. Am J Sports Med 2003; 31:119-125.

2.  Frey C, Andersen GD, Feder KS. Plantarflexion injury to the metatarsalphalangeal joint “sand toe.” Foot Ankle Int 1996; 17:576-581.