A comparison of women’s collegiate and girls’ high school volleyball injury data collected prospectively over a 4-year period
Reeser JC, Gregory A, Berg RL, Comstock RD. Sports Health. 2015;7(6):504-510.
Take Home Message: Differences exists between injury patterns of female collegiate and high school athletes.
Volleyball is considered a relatively safe sport; however, due to the growing popularity of the sport a sport-specific injury prevention program should be implemented. Unfortunately, there is limited quality injury data comparing high school and college volleyball, which hinders the development of an injury prevention program, which may need to be age specific. Therefore, the authors assessed injury data from 2 injury surveillance systems [National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Injury Surveillance System (NCAA ISS) & High School Reporting Injuries Online (HS RIO)] to compare volleyball specific injury data during a 4-year period (2005/2006 to 2008/2009) to determine whether differences existed in injury pattern characteristics between female high school and collegiate athletes. During this time period both systems implemented the same definition of an injury (any condition resulting in the loss of at least 1 day of practice or competition) as well as athletic exposures (AE; 1 athlete’s participation in 1 practice or competition without regard to duration of participation). Additionally, both systems relied on athletic trainers to report and describe injuries to their respective Internet-based reporting system. Overall, volleyball-related injury rates were three times higher in collegiate athletes during both competition (injury rate ration = 2.9) and practice (injury rate ration = 3.5) compared to high school athletes. Collegiate athletes have a higher rate of time loss due to acute and overuse injuries. Collegiate athletes had a higher rate of ankle sprains, patellar tendinosis, and should injuries (i.e., rotator cuff tendinosis, musculotendinous strain, and glenohumeral subluxation/dislocation). Ankle, knee, and shoulder injuries rates declined during the study interval in both groups; however, concussion rates increased in both groups. Concussions represented 5% of total collegiate injuries and 4.8% of total high school injuries. Ligamentous injuries (college: 11.7/10,000 AE; high school: 6.1/10,000 AE) were the most frequently reported injury with ankle sprains representing the most common injury in both groups (college: 10.4/10,000 AE; high school: 4.3/10,000 AE).
The data reported in this study demonstrates that although similar there are distinct differences between the injury patterns of female collegiate volleyball athletes compared to high school athletes. Collegiate athletes have an overall higher rate of injury as well as greater time loss due both acute and overuse to injury. This suggests that collegiate athletes may be playing with a different style of play, more intensity, and aggressiveness as well as have an increased risk of injury due to higher prevalence from a previous injury. It was concerning to note that within both groups concussion rates increased. Concussion represented the fourth most frequent diagnosis among collegiate athletes and third most frequent in the high school group. The increase in concussion diagnosis may be due to increased awareness of concussion injuries; however, future research should investigate sport position and age factors for concussion to determine whether changes to rules or coaching tactics may help decrease concussion rates. Medical professionals should note the differences among collegiate and high school female volleyball athletes to better understand injury patterns and rates to formulate an injury prevention program.
Questions for Discussion: Do many of your volleyball athletes sustain concussions? Do you implement sport-specific preventive programs?
Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban