Dordt's motion biomechanics research helps volleyball athletes

Dordt's motion biomechanics research helps volleyball athletes

It’s been a remarkable season for the Dordt College women’s volleyball team. The Defenders earned a runner-up finish at the NAIA National Championship for the second year in a row and ended the season with a 38-4 record. For Senior Haley Moss, the 6-6 opposite hitter from Boyden, Iowa, the season was a win from behind.  

Moss developed a passion for volleyball when she was in the fifth grade.  With the support of her parents and the guidance of her coaches, she developed into a formidable athlete. But as her proficiency on the court increased, so did the pain in her right shoulder.  In her senior year of high school, Moss was diagnosed with a torn labrum—in her case, a condition caused by the wear and tear of activity and overuse.

“Shoulder pain is common in young volleyball players, but there are no good explanations for what causes it or how to prevent it,” says Engineering Professor Dr. Kayt Frisch, who specializes in biomechanics. “Despite the fact that similar numbers of high school girls play volleyball as boys play baseball, baseball shoulder pain and injury have been studied extensively, while volleyball shoulder problems have not.”

Frisch is currently working with Dordt Volleyball Coach Chad Hanson, the athletic trainers, and Dordt students to learn more about the forces the shoulder experiences during a volleyball hit. Using Dordt’s Motion Biomechanics Laboratory, Frisch and her student assistants are studying all aspects of a volleyball spike: motion, forces, and muscle activity.

“Our findings have the potential to impact the volleyball community by leading to improved training techniques for volleyball players at all levels and a better understanding of injury cause, prevention, and treatment,” Frisch says.

“To play with no limitations, and no fear of pain or recurring injury, is all any athlete hopes for,” says Moss. She had surgery the summer before her freshman year at Dordt, but despite rehabilitation, she suffered from a repeat tear and two seasons of cortisone shots due to her desire to compete and the rigors of collegiate play. Unable to continue playing in that state, Moss again elected for surgery in April 2017, with little hope of returning to the court., To the surprise of all, Moss was cleared to play in early November—just in time for the NAIA championships and a record career finish.

“It’s still hard not to cry when I think back over the past few years,” says Moss. “To finish the season on the court, pain free, in the championship game is just an amazing experience, and one I truly didn’t think was possible.”

Athletes like Moss will benefit from the research that Frisch, Hanson, and Dordt students are conducting regarding injury prevention and treatment. Make a gift to to impact the volleyball community through student research.