Volleyball, a favorite workout for both recreational and competitive players, is a relatively safe activity. But, as with all sports, injuries do happen. Here's what you can do if they happen to you.

Serious Injuries Rare

DS_Body Beautiful_55 "Serious injuries, like head injuries, are quite rare, and hard collisions are fairly uncommon" in volleyball, according to Mark Schoen, a certified athletic trainer who works with the UCLA men's and women's volleyball teams.

Still, the UCLA players do spend time in the training room nursing injuries. And playing volleyball can lead to injury even if you're not on one of the best collegiate teams in the nation.

According to William Briner, Jr., MD, the medical resource advisory team chairman for USA Volleyball, most volleyball injuries are related to blocking and spiking, both of which involve jumping and landing.

Patellar Tendonitis

]]>Patellar tendonitis]]>, also known as "jumper's knee," is the most common overuse injury in volleyball. To avoid it, you must strengthen your quadriceps muscles and make sure your hamstrings are flexible.

And "make sure your shoes are in good condition," says Schoen. If you do get patellar tendonitis, you'll feel pain just below your kneecap. You'll probably feel the pain more as you jump than as you land. Treat this pain with rest and use ice and anti-inflammatory medications after playing. If the pain continues, see a sports medicine doctor for evaluation and treatment.

Ankle Sprains

Going up for a block and coming down hard sometimes leads to a ]]>sprained ankle]]>. With treatment and rehabilitation, it may take three to six weeks for you to return to full activity and sometimes as long as 10 weeks for the ankle to reach normal strength.

Work on strengthening the muscles that bring the foot up and turn the foot out before returning to play. Try balancing exercises to increase ankle proprioception (knowing where the joint is in space). A physical therapist or athletic trainer can teach you some balancing exercises. If you're prone to ankle injuries, you might consider wearing a brace. "It won't prevent a sprain, but it can make a sprain less severe," Schoen says.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries from playing volleyball tend to be overuse injuries, such as tendinopathy, ]]>bursitis]]>, or a small tear of the rotator cuff.

"Injuries to the muscle-tendon units of the rotator cuff are common," says Schoen. He recommends starting with conservative treatment: rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and ice following activity.

If the pain persists, see a sports medicine doctor. Because shoulder pain can be caused by several different injuries, it's important to determine the cause of your pain and treat it appropriately.

"Doing the wrong exercises to try to fix your injury could make things worse," says Dr. Briner.

Hand Injuries

]]>Fractures]]>, ]]>sprains]]>, and dislocations of fingers and wrists can be common in volleyball. In most cases, these injuries are minor and don't mean a lot of time off the court.

"Most finger sprains and closed fractures can be managed by splinting or taping," says Dr. Briner. See a doctor if you think you may have a fracture or dislocation.

All in the Technique

With overuse injuries, "There is some flaw in the biomechanics of your playing," says Dr. Briner. It's important to address your form and technique problems before stepping back on the court.

Get in Shape

To avoid injuries, players should have a good baseline level of conditioning before playing. "Especially for a sport that's so anaerobic and power-based, you need to get your muscles fit," says Dr. Briner. Concentrate on strengthening thigh muscles and doing rotator cuff strengthening. Work on flexibility, too especially in the hamstring area.

Each time you play, warm up before going full speed. Start with light jogging and jumping, and do some sport-specific exercises such as gentle serving and setting.

Hit the Beach

When summer arrives and you have the option to play on the sand instead of on a hard gym floor, take it outside.

"Knee and ankle injuries are much less likely on the sand because it's softer," says Dr. Briner. Your foot is not anchored and there is less stress that can be transferred to other joints. But because vigorous jump serves are more common on the sand, shoulder injuries are actually more common in beach volleyball than indoor volleyball. Make sure you warm up your serve well before firing away.