There are some things in life that are guaranteed, and patients coming into Spire Gatwick Park in the weeks post Wimbledon with tennis injuries are one of them, says Helen Buckland, Spire’s physiotherapy manager.
“They probably haven't played tennis since last summer, or for years, but suddenly pick up a racquet and go into competitive mode without a sufficient warm up.
“We see shoulder and lower back injuries from tennis, and ankle sprains from people who have joined in a fun run without doing any preparation.”
The summer brings out the desire in many to take up outdoor sports for the first time, or re-live the glory days of their youth in a family game of rounders.
But any exercise, whether you are professional or a recent couch potato, needs to begin with a gentle warm up, then stretches, and finish with a cool down.
Warm up before stretching;
Gentle jogging for five minutes, or a fast walking pace round the tennis court will warm up the leg muscles. Add some shoulder rolls before picking up that racquet.
Hold that stretch:
After warming up, stretch out your calf and arm/shoulder muscles. There is plenty of information on how to stretch on the internet, but all stretches need to be held for at least 15 - 20 seconds to be beneficial. Achilles tendon injuries and calf pain are two very common complaints, particularly among runners. The soleus stretch is a little known, but important stretch to prevent injury in this area:
- Stand with one leg in front of the other close to a wall.
- Place your hands on the wall for balance.
- Bend both knees, focusing on stretching the muscle of the back knee.
- Move your weight forwards onto your toes but make sure you keep the heel down and maintain alignment of your back knee through the middle of your foot.
- Hold for between 15 - 20 seconds
Gently does it:
Start off gently. Don’t feel pressured to play for the full hour if you have booked a court. Use some of that time warming up and stretching, and encourage your partner to have a knock around for the first few sessions.
Take time to repeat the stretches you did earlier, again holding for at least 20 seconds.
Anticipate some delayed muscle soreness which may last for 2-3 days. Simple stretches should help ease this.
If you pull a muscle suddenly or suffer pain later on after exercise, put ice on the area. Take anti-inflammatories, according to packet instructions, unless directed otherwise by your doctor.
For a calf or ankle strain, raise your leg at least 10cms above the level of your heart by lying down and placing your foot on a cushion. Put a compression bandage around the ankle to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Continue to put ice on the affected area, and take anti-inflammatories (according to the packet instructions) for 24-48 hours.
REST! And don’t plan to return to the activity until the injury has healed and you are able to return to your previous level of exercise comfortably. Exercising while injured could lead to a more complex or even long-term injury.
When to seek help:
If after 24 hours the swelling still hasn’t begun to reduce, visit your GP, go direct to your nearest walk-in centre or make an appointment with a physiotherapist. They will assess the injury, decide if further investigation is needed, and give advice and practical help so you can recover from your injury.
Spire Gatwick Park Hospital has a team of physiotherapists available 5 days a week. To book an appointment, call 01293 778 951.