Dodge Safe #1: Dodgeball and Sore Muscles

Posted on February 07, 2013 at 9:04 pm |


Carolyn Tam is a registered physiotherapist currently working in the Lower Mainland. She completed her Master of Physical Therapy degree at the University of British Columbia after graduating from UBC with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics.

Week 1: Dodgeball and Muscle Soreness

“I played dodgeball last night and now I can’t move.”

This is the case for many dodgeball players who spend their off-season physically taking a break from dodgeball. I have been playing in the VDL for the past 10 seasons and I still experience muscle soreness, aches and pains, especially after the first couple weeks of dodgeball. Why is that? Did I injure myself?

The achiness and soreness in my shoulders and legs are all thanks to Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. DOMS is the muscle pain and tenderness that typically develops 24-72 hours after an unaccustomed bout of eccentric exercise (Herbert et al., 2011). Eccentric exercise involves producing fast and powerful movements such as throwing a dodgeball, sprinting to the line during opening rush, and jumping to dodge (ie. when my teammates have abandoned me, leaving the other team with all 6 balls). The exact mechanism of DOMS is not completely understood but it is believed that this type of exercise may lead to microscopic tears within the muscle, which set off an inflammatory response resulting in the sensation of pain (Connolly et al., 2003).


Fear not, DOMS is necessary for muscles to adapt because as the muscle repairs, it repairs bigger and stronger (Wilmore and Costill, 2004).

“I’m glad to know that it’s a normal reaction to exercise but I still can’t move…What can I do?

The answer: not much. After browsing through some scientific articles, I found a review by Cheung, Hume and Maxwell (2003) that determined the effectiveness of different treatment and management strategies for DOMS. A simplified summary is listed below:

  • Cryotherapy or Icing: Little benefit. Only temporary relief during icing.
  • Stretching: No preventative effect whether stretching before or after dodgeball.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Requires more research. Please talk to your doctor if you are considering taking medication.
  • Massage: Requires more research.
  • Compression: Requires more research.
  • Exercises or more dodgeball!: This is actually an effective strategy for alleviating DOMS due to an increase in blood flow and endorphins (, which are morphine-like substance that your own body produces). Unfortunately, the pain relief is only temporary as well.

Therefore, the best option may be just to wait it out. The pain from DOMS typically lasts up to a week. If you play on multiple nights, it’s a good idea to take it easy during this time to decrease your risk of injury. Another approach to prevent DOMS is to start the dodgeball season off slowly (don’t need to throw your hardest in the first week) and progressively increase your intensity. Any dodgeball veteran will tell you: Don’t burn out too early, save it for the playoffs!


Cheung, K., Hume, P.A. & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med, 33(2): 145-164. Retrieved from

Connolly, D.A.J., Sayers, S.P. & McHugh, M.P. (2003). Treatment and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness. J. Strength Cond. Res, 17(1):197–208. Retrieved from

Herbert, R.D., de Noronha, M., Kamper, S.J. (2011). Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle
soreness after exercise. Br J Sports Med45, 1249–1250. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2011-090599.

Willmore, J.H. & Costill, D.L. (2004). Physiology of sport and exercise, 3rd edition. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics.

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