I’ve found that there are some common truths across sport. Things that stand self-evident across any playing field, court or net, whether you’re at the Olympic Games or playing games on your Summer holidays. Often these focus on a performer’s commitment, work-ethic, engagement, determination, focus, ability to work together with others, and a lot more.
I regularly hear coaches talk about how “Heart” is essential for athletes to become successful. I don’t know if there’s a strict definition for “Heart” in this context, but I think of it as that capacity to stay focused under pressure or be able to turn a bad performance into a good one. In this, volleyball is no different to any other sport. Having that intangible quality of “Heart” allows athletes to take advantage of every situation and benefit from every moment of play, to grow and perform more effectively.
I was recently lucky enough to become aware of another reason why volleyball players and coaches should be interested in heart, through a chance encounter with Dr. Chris Koutures.
Doctor Koutures has been the physician for the USA Volleyball teams over the past decade. During his time working with volleyball players, he has also been highly active in sharing his knowledge and understanding for the benefit of the volleyball community across the world. It was here I found out a lot more about the heart in volleyball. Not the “Heart” you need to pick your teammates up when they’re down, but the heart beating inside your chest that pumps oxygen to your limbs before your dive after a ball in defense.
When you’re thinking about adding those inches to your vertical jump it’s sometimes easy to forget that there is a lot more underpinning your performance than ONLY muscles, bones and tendons. In his article, Heart and Aorta Issues in Elite Volleyball Players, Dr. Koutures shares his insight into the unique cardiovascular risks which can affect athletes, particularly taller athletes, competing in our sport.
The research, according to Dr. Koutures and his colleagues, indicates a correlation between height and a wider than normal aortic root. The aorta is the main vessel responsible for carrying blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, and it’s root is where it joins to the heart. This widening can be an indication of Marfan Syndrome, or even lead to a rupture of the aorta itself, which can be fatal.
You don’t have to have studied Darwin in school to know that volleyball has evolved into a sport which favours taller, faster and stronger players. But understanding the potential risks that come with these preferential physical adaptations, is the first step to protecting against potential issues.
We’re committed to supporting you to grow and develop your understanding so that you can get the most out of the sport you love safely.
DAVIS, C.K., et al. (2015). Cardiovascular and Musculoskeletal Assessment of Elite US Volleyball Players. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 25(6), 546-560.