Background: In overhead sports like volleyball, the onset of a rotator cuff tendinopathy due to functional overload is a common observation. An angiofibroblastic etiopathogenesis has been hypothesized, whereby a greater anaerobic metabolism occurs in critical zones of the tendon with a lower degree of vascularization; this would induce collagen and extracellular matrix degradation, that could then trigger a compensatory neovascularization response. We performed a clinical observational study of 80 elite volleyball players, monitoring the perfusion values of the supraspinatus tendons by oximetry.
Results: No statistically significant differences were found between the oximetry data and age, sex or years of sports activity, nor when comparing the right and left arm or the dominant and non-dominant arm. A statistically significant difference was found for the dominant arm values in relation to the competitive role, higher values being obtained in outside hitters (62.7%) than middle hitters (53.7%) (p = 0.01), opposite hitters (55.5%) (p = 0.02) and libero players (54.4%) (p = 0.008), whereas there were no differences in setters (56.2%) (p > 0.05).
Conclusions: The different tendon vascularization values found in players with different roles in the team may be attributed to a response to the specific biomechanical demands posed by the different overhead throwing roles.