The sun is shining, you’re in your best beach attire, you’re working up a sweat (and a tan) with some beach volleyball and neck pain strikes. Don’t end up sitting this season out; make sure to avoid injuries by following these simple steps to have fun in the sun and do some great smashes over that volleyball net.
1. Remember: fun exercise is still exercise!
Although it can feel like just playing around, volleyball is an intense physical activity and demands a lot from the body. Not only are you running on an uneven and changeable surface, putting you at risk of falling and of fatiguing your back muscles, you’re also looking up more than you usually would and extending your arms and upper body in an unusual way. As such, the usual tenets of exercise safety apply:
- warm up and warm down
- take things slow and steady
- stay hydrated and well nourished
- stop if it hurts.
2. Smash, don’t get smashed.
In line with the advice to stay hydrated and well nourished, it is wise to avoid drinking alcohol whilst playing beach volleyball, however tempting a cool beer is when out in the sun. Alcohol is severely dehydrating, has an inflammatory effect on the body, uses up essential vitamins and minerals in its metabolism, and can make injuries much more likely due to impaired coordination. Save the beers for after you’re done playing and have had an electrolyte-rich drink and nutrient-dense snack. Your body will thank you for it, especially if you’re looking to get stronger and faster at the sport.
3. Consider professional help.
If you’re serious about beach volleyball and are getting a lot of practice, consider getting a helping hand from a professional coach. What might start out as fairly inconsequential quirks of your style of play can become serious impediments to success and predispose you to volleyball injuries when you try to take things up a notch and start playing more often.
4. Know the signs of common volleyball injuries.
Rotator cuff tendinopathy and suprascapular neuropathy are two of the most common volleyball injuries, and around 14% of injuries in the sport are back injuries because of all of the twisting, stretching, jumping and bending backwards involved in the game. Rotator cuff muscles are those that control the movement of the shoulder and include the infraspinus, teres minor and supraspinatus muscles. When you have your arm raised over your head these muscles are in a compromising position and any shocks and trauma to them can cause stress and damage, including rotator cuff tears. Sudden, sharp shoulder pain can be a sign of a torn tendon, whereas a more gradual pain is more likely due to inflammation from overuse. Stopping if you are in pain is essential to prevent further, severe and irreparable injury.Suprascapular neuropathy, in contrast, is a particular problem for those performing a floater serve as you have to stop the overhead follow through straight after hitting the ball. This action can cause compression of the nerve running along the top of the shoulder blade and may even cause referred neck pain and headaches, or even weakness in the arms and hands. Repetitive use injuries are just like tennis elbow and require rest and recuperation. The application of an ice shoulder wrap can also help reduce inflammation if this is apparent although it is wise to see a qualified physiotherapist before self-medicating.
5. Do other kinds of exercise!
Professional athletes rarely simply train at their chosen sport alone and this is for good reason. Overtaxing the same muscles again and again is liable to lead to injury so make sure to go for a jog, swim, bike ride or even lift some weights at the gym in order to keep your body in balance. Perhaps combine a daily yoga routine on the beach with your volleyball practice in order to easily marry exercise, mindfulness, relaxation and balance. The idea that some fun in the sun with beach volleyball can lead to neck pain might seem pessimistic but the professionals who have had their share of injuries will attest to the importance of approaching this like any other sport, even if your team colors are an even tan.