Competitive volleyball is a sport plagued with countless injuries. One of the most common injuries reported is jumper’s knee.
Jumper’s knee, patellar tendonitis or patellar femoral syndrome (PFS) are the common diagnosis for “general” front of the knee, pain. Knee pain in a jumping sport can be incredibly debilitating as in many cases it can take as long as months to fully recover.
When looking at patellar tendonitis for our athletes; the first area of concern is the ankle. Acute ankle injuries make up a majority of volleyball injuries(Bahr & Bahr, 1997). Injured ankles often lack the proper mobility, mainly in dorsiflexion (e.g. limited motion foot towards the shin). As you can see in the images below, poor ankle mobility can lead to poor landing mechanics and put more stress to the knee and can irritate any existing knee pathologies or create new ones.
After clearing the ankle, we usually attack hip mobility and glute strength. Any tightness in the hip flexors are going to limit the strength of our glutes, which often leads to poor movement at the knees and limited jumping power, both major qualities needed for successful volleyball play. A basic strengthening and test exercise for glute strength is a single leg bridge. We look for knees, hips and shoulders to be in one straight line.
Addressing soft tissue of the quads and glutes through foam rolling and manual therapy expedite the recovery time. Often with aggressive treatment we can see jumping athletes back on the court the same week.
Assessing overall movement followed by breaking down each joints function helps us paint a picture of why the knee is the culprit in pain; as it is usually not the dysfunctional area driving the pain.
Ankle Instability: Rest vs. Early Mobilization by Craig Leibenson
Bahr, R., & Bahr, I. A. (1997). Incidence of acute volleyball injuries: a prospective cohort study of injury mechanisms and risk factors. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 7(3), 166–171. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.1997.tb00134.x