How to Make Volleyball a Day at the Beach

Getting down and dirty for beach volleyball can be a win every time with the right preparation.
Dr. Judelkiss Todd from Performance Spine & Sports Medicine serves up tips for this favorite sport, but she warns even the best prepared people might feel the effects of a day of beach volleyball.

“Sand is tough to play in. You’ll be slower, you’ll tire faster and your vertical jump will be reduced to millimeters,” said Todd. “The quadriceps and calves will burn, not to say your whole body will not ache. Throughout a match, you can jump well over 30 times, not to mention squatting, and performing lateral movements.”

There are both physical and practical considerations to make before stepping out onto the court. The practical advice is to wear a broad spectrum sunblock and sunglasses or a hat to protect eyes from the light, according to Todd. She said comfortable clothing is also essential and said that wearing sneakers is a bad idea. She recommends players either go barefoot, or wear a sand sock to keep the feet cool in case of hot sand.

The physical limitations of working in the sand may require some prep work to rise above the level of novice. She said the focus should be on core and lower extremity strength which is required for spiking, blocking, setting and serving. Muscles like the hip flexors, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominals and oblique’s are among the muscles to strengthen to avoid injury.

“In volleyball, you’re often in a defensive position — bent over at the hips with your butt stuck out leaving you with inflexible hip flexors. A half kneel lunge position will stretch this muscle group in front of the hip,” she said.

The most common overuse injury reported in volleyball is patellar tendinitis or “jumpers knee.” To combat this she recommends stretching quadriceps. This can be done by pulling your heel towards your glutes in a standing position to help alleviate stress put on the knees by a contracted quadriceps.

Todd explained that the soft sand can act as a shock absorber as players run and jump through the sand, strengthening the joints. However, that same shock absorbing quality means it takes more muscle power to help propel you upwards and sideways.

Even with proper preparation injuries can occur, Todd has had trouble with a shoulder impingement from playing. She was a hitter and the repetitive overhead movements took a toll on her body. She found her way back to the sand with physical therapy. “Physical therapy helped me strengthen my muscles as well as my core to help my mechanical shoulder pain. I have not had a problem since.”

Today she is recovered and still able to play volleyball whenever she gets the chance. She also recently ran the Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon and finished in record time.

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