Here’s what to do about that shoulder injury you got from playing volleyball

Q. I am a competitive volleyball player who has developed right shoulder problems. I have had pain in the back of my shoulder for the last two months. The pain is worse while serving or blocking the ball. The pain has now progressed to the point that I can’t play. Resting has helped a little, but the symptoms returned as soon as I tried to play again. Ibuprofen has not helped. What is wrong with my shoulder and how can I get to better as fast as possible?

A. Shoulder injuries are quite common in elite volleyball players. The most common shoulder overuse injury is known as an impingement syndrome, where the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and painful.

The rotator cuff tendon is formed from four muscles from the front, back, and top of the shoulder that come together to attach to the ball part of the shoulder. This tendon rotates the shoulder. It can become painful or weak in back or front depending upon where it is injured.

There is also a condition seen in volleyball athletes that results in nerve damage to one of the muscles in the back of the shoulder. These muscles help rotate the shoulder outward.

I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon for an exam and possibly an MRI scan if needed. Most players with these conditions can recover non surgically with physical therapy. Once better, proper technique and training modifications can help prevent recurrence of symptoms.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick
Dr. Harlan Selesnick

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital.