By Fiona Garrison
Feb. 9 was just another day of training for freshman volleyball player Gloria Alcala. Her form was slightly wrong, but she thought little of it. Little did she know that this would result in yet another injury that would keep her out for several weeks.
“I thought it was my IT band, but then when I woke up on Monday, I couldn’t move without feeling severe pain in my lower back,” Alcala said.
Alcala soon discovered that she had strained her lower back, making it difficult to work her leg or turn. Alcala now has to take several measures to fully recover. The date of her return is still undisclosed.
“I am performing physical therapy as well as deep tissue massage,” Alcala said.
Not only does she have to sit out during her school and club volleyball practices and games, but Alcala also knows that it will be hard to completely recover from this strain.
“It will probably affect my playing due to the stiffness I feel and my ability to use my whole body to swing,” Alcala said.
New injuries like this one, added to her previous wounds, tend to make athletes like Alcala more prone to injuries in the future. They can hinder their playing and cause the athletes to be warier and more cautious after healing.
“Due to volleyball, I have had a shoulder injury and severe muscle spasms in my IT band,” Alcala said.
Alcala believes that many athletes are injured because of three things: lack of proper stretching, overuse, and improper technique.
“I believe my injury was caused by improper technique and overuse because as a young athlete, you want to do the most you can,” Alcala said. “However, it is not helpful when you do it wrong.”
Freshman volleyball coach Katy Ruiz has a similar opinion.
“Research says that overuse and weakness are the two main causes,” Ruiz said. “Personally, I’d say it’s the lack of a more rounded athletic background. Athletes are specializing in one sport when they are so young that they don’t fully develop all of their muscles, which may lead to injuries as they get older.”
Along with Alcala, several more of her teammates have had similar experiences with injuries.
“I sprained my ankle during a tournament, and we lost the third place spot,” freshman volleyball and basketball player Reece Sandercock said. “Finally, when my foot was about to be back to full use, I sprained my other ankle.”
When a player gets hurt, the team is affected, too. Losing a key teammate has an effect on the team, both physically and mentally.
“Volleyball is a team sport; every player is an asset, and the team will suffer without everyone being capable of playing,” freshman volleyball player Gigi Rios said.
Ruiz believes that injuries like these can still have a positive outcome: they bring a team closer together.
“Mentally, I think the best outcome for an injury would be to cause the team to rally around the injury and step up to the challenge of filling in for that missing person; a kind of ‘fight for injured player’ mentality,” Ruiz said. “Physically, I think an injury’s immediate effect is negative, but in the long run can cause players to develop quicker so they can step into their new role.”
As proof of Ruiz’s opinion, Alcala’s teammates continue to stay supportive of her as she heals.
“My teammates were very upset when they learned of my injury, but are very supportive of my recovery,” Alcala said.
Alcala is optimistic about the outcome of her injury.
“A big part of my life is volleyball, and this injury has prevented me from pursuing my pleasure of the game as well as being able to walk pain free,” Alcala said. “However, as treatment goes on, I am able to move more and more. I am more inspired and motivated to get better faster so I won’t be injured anymore.”
Ruiz knows that no matter what, the volleyball team will be well prepared for their next season.
“Our off season includes several exercises that are geared toward injury prevention, so we should be well prepared, but there is no way to completely guarantee no injuries,” Ruiz said. “We have several spots to fill considering how many seniors we had this past season. However, we have been preparing since our regular season, and the girls are eager to work their way into their new roles.”