Did the prevalence of suprascapular neuropathy in professional volleyball players decrease with the changes occurred in serving technique?

Phys Sportsmed. 2021 Feb;49(1):57-63. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2020.1766344. Epub 2020 May 27.


Objectives: Suprascapular neuropathy is more frequent in volleyball as compared to other overhead sports. This study aims to report the actual prevalence of suprascapular neuropathy among elite volleyball players. The hypothesis is that becoming jump topspin serves the most common serving technique, suprascapular neuropathy reduced its frequency. Methods: A total of 82 professional players were enrolled in the study. The presence of symptoms and the type of serve preferably performed were investigated. The strength and trophicity of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles were evaluated. Patients with positive clinical findings underwent MRI of the shoulder. Results: The jump topspin serve was found to be the most popular type of serve both in males and females. At physical examination, 9% of the males and 12% of the females presented with infraspinatus muscle hypotrophy. Each case was accompanied by external rotation weakness. None of them complained of pain or reduced performance when they played. MRI confirmed infraspinatus muscle atrophy in all subjects. Conclusion: A lower prevalence of suprascapular neuropathy was found as compared with that previously reported in the 1980s and 1990s. A reduction in the popularity of the float serve seems to be a possible explanation. Thus, the jump topspin serve could be safe for suprascapular neuropathy and associated injuries in volleyball. The findings of this study should be considered by athletes and coaches for the prevention of activity-related injuries.

Keywords: Volleyball; float serve; injuries; jump serve; overhead sports; suprascapular; suprascapular neuropathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Rotation
  • Rotator Cuff / physiopathology
  • Scapula
  • Shoulder Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Shoulder Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Volleyball / injuries*
  • Volleyball / physiology*
  • Young Adult