View Full Version : Death from playing volleyball?

curious george
06-06-2001, 02:39 PM
Can a volleyball injury kill someone?

I play volleyball often. I came across the web site below that makes it sound like a vball player can die from a neck injury that damages an artery in the neck. I was shocked to read this. Can this be right? I've been searching the web for more info on this topic, but can't find any. Has any healthy person really died while playing vball (aside from old people having heart attacks and things like that)? I thought the worst that could happen is if a player crashes into one of the poles.

The web site is a little confusing to me because of the medical-speak. ie, what are "Horner's syndrome and unilateral blindness" that is says are symptoms?

Blunt-Trauma Carotid Artery Injury: Mild Symptoms May Disguise Serious Trouble
Sandra Carr, MD; Bryan Troop, MD; Joseph Hurley, MD; Richard Pennell, MD

In Brief: Injury to the carotid artery can occur in athletes by direct blow to the neck or by
hyperextension of the neck....

Carotid artery injuries are often associated with major morbidity and mortality, such as stroke or
permanent neurologic deficit....

Type 1 injuries (stretch, traction, or rotation forces) involve a torn intima, and intramural dissection
typically results (1,2,9). Sports in which type 1 injuries may occur include football, soccer,
hockey, volleyball, and tennis...

Other symptoms and signs include hemicrania, Horner's syndrome, paralysis, unilateral facial weakness, hemianesthesia,
aphasia, amaurosis fugax (transient, unilateral blindness), or seizure (table 1)...

06-06-2001, 04:48 PM
Good medical reference (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/encyclopedia.html)
Horner's Syndrome:
A nerve condition involving narrowed pupils, drooping eyelids (ptosis), and unusual facial dryness resulting from an injury to the spinal cord, with damage or paralysis of the cervical sympathetic nerve trunk. In the case of a neck injury, the person should be carried flat with as little movement as possible. For details on first aid, see spinal/neck injury. ŠAdam 2000, inc.
I read your article, here's my take in refernce to the OP:
The examples they used in the article (Hockey goalie, tackle football player) both involved very physical sports that vary greatly from volleyball.

Consider the hockey incident. The goalie is hit in the neck with a hockey puck. The puck is 3" x 1", doesn't weigh too much, but is quite solid, and (since it was the goalie, it was obviously a shot on goal) the puck was probably traveling above 80 mph (pretty sure). The force was probably located in a very small area (given the shape of the puck, etc.), so that if it hit a certain area of the neck it is very possible it could do significant damage.

The football incident is another case where the neck was extended and the victim was struck without time to react. The football has more "give" or "cushion" than the puck and goes slower, but hitting in the right way could easily cause problems.

A volleyball is air-filled, has a fair amount of squishyness and, unless spiked in some bizarre way, doesn't come at people too fast.
In short, even if it did hit your extended neck, the fact that it's a cushy, air-filled sphere leads me to believe that you might face neck stiffness but nothing like these folks. The focus of the story seems to be more about how the symptoms don't always show the true trouble that might be lurking.
Serve, spike, and dig all you want... you'll be fine.

06-06-2001, 06:22 PM
I don't know about dying, but I've got a permanently bent finger from having the ball hit the very tip while I was blocking and I've got caps on my front top teeth from getting hit in the mouth from a deflected ball I was trying to dig. Both of those hurt enough for me.

06-06-2001, 06:30 PM
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (http://www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/ReportDataTables.htm#TABLE 5), the number of fatal injuries as a direct result of volleybal in high school over a four-year period of 1994-98: 0. The number of catastrophic injuries rated as serious during that period: 1. The number classified as non-serious: 0. The number of injuries per 100,000 participants: 0.06 (half as many as swimming). The number of injuries indirectly attributed to volleyball: 1 (fatal). Number of participants over that period: 1,822,922.

According to the 2000-01 NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook, while volleyball has one of the highest rates of practice injury (5.6 per 1,000 athlete-exposures), it has the lowest game injury rate (3.7). The rates for injuries resulting in 7+ days of time loss is 1.3 (both practice and game injuries). The rates for injuries requiring surgery are 0.1 and 0.2 for practice and game injuries respectively (lowest of the sports rated).

Basically, volleyball is a very safe sport. I agree with AETBOND417 that a direct blow to the neck by a volleyball is unlikely to be able to cause this type of injury. The one possibility I see is not from a shot to the neck but rather from hyperextension of the neck by a shot to the head or face. Still, I think the odds of this happening are pretty slim. I didn't notice that the article says this has ever actually happened to someone from playing volleyball. Plus, you'd have to be playing with some pretty strong hitters, and not playing your position properly, for the necessary power.