Tennis related injuries are more common this time of the year with the start of Wimbledon pushing us to start dusting off those old racquets.
To prevent injury it is important to take a few precautions
1) Make sure you have the right gear.
Wearing a supportive shoe will prevent ankle injuries. Playing with a racquet with the correct grip will reduce the strain on your elbow and shoulder. Holding an eastern forehand grip, you should be able to fit the index finger of your non-hitting hand in the space between your ring finger and palm. If there isn’t enough room for your index finger, the grip is too small. If there is space between your finger and palm, the grip is too big. You should also pay attention to the size and weight of your racquet based on your needs and ability. A professional can help you to choose the right racquet.
2) Pay attention to your technique.
Take the strain off your shoulder when serving by using your legs more. Try not to arch your back too much. Again with your forehand and backhand turn your shoulders so that your spine rotates taking the stress off the shoulder. Work with a tennis coach to help improve your technique.
3) Warm up and do strength-building exercises.
A good warmup before a game can help to lessen your chance of injury and improve your game. Start by hitting from the service box to ease your way in. Stretching or using a foam roller after a match can help reduce muscle tightness or stiffness. Strength and endurance based exercises between matches will reduce the chance of strains and sprains.
You may think that you need to practice as much as possible to improve your game, but playing too much too soon can increase your injury risk. Your body needs time to recover between practices and matches, and overexertion can affect how well you play and make you more susceptible to injury. Remember the 10% rule where increasing your load by only 10% per week will allow your muscles to adapt and strengthen.
Common tennis injuries
Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, refers to pain in the tendons joining the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. This condition is similar to golfer’s elbow, but it occurs on the outside of the elbow rather than the inside. Tennis elbow is often the result of overuse or using the wrong grip size, and while it can occur in non-athletes, it is common among athletes who play tennis and other racquet sports. Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain or burning on the outside of the elbow and weak grip strength. You may find that the symptoms are worse with forearm activity.
2) Rotator Cuff Tears
The rotator cuff is made of four muscles and tendons that come together to provide stability and mobility to the shoulder. The rotator cuff can tear gradually, as a result of overuse, but can also result from an acute injury. Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain, tenderness, and weakness in the shoulder, difficulty lifting the arm, and snapping and crackling noises while moving the shoulder.
3) Stress Fractures in the Back
Because tennis serves require a combination of hyperextension, or bending the back, and side-bending and rotation of the trunk, stress fractures are a common injury. This motion puts stress on the vertebrae in the lower back and can eventually cause a fracture in the portion of the vertebra called the pars interarticularis. This can eventually result in a condition called spondylolisthesis, in which the vertebra shifts forward. Stress fractures are not always painful, but can result in pain in the lower back that gets worse with activity.
4) Calf Strain
The calf muscle group consists of the Gastrocnemius, Soleus and Plantaris muscles, situated at the back of the lower leg. Their function is to pull up on the heel bone and these muscles are most active during the push-off when a tennis player must move quickly to react to an opponent’s shot. A strain occurs when the muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue becomes torn.
5) Patellar Tendonitis (aka Jumper’s Knee)
The patellar tendon attaches the kneecap to the shinbone and aids in the movement of the leg and supporting our weight when walking and jumping. Jumping, in particular, can put excessive strain on this tendon, and repetitive jumping, which is often a part of tennis, can cause microscopic tears and injury to the patellar tendon. Patellar tendonitis can cause pain and swelling, and the affected area can feel warm to the touch. Jumping, kneeling, and walking up and down stairs can increase the pain.
6) Ankle Sprains
It is very common for tennis players to suffer from ankle sprains. Because tennis can be a fast-paced game, a sudden sideways motion can cause the ankle to twist, stretching out or damaging one of the ligaments in the ankle. A sprain can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the ankle. The ankle is often unstable, and bruising can occur as well.