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Anyone for tennis?

29 June 2018

As we move towards Wimbledon, the biggest tennis tournament of the year and more people are inspired to take up tennis, we look at some of the most common injuries associated with the sport.

Tennis is one of the most popular played racket sports, however can also lead to a host of injuries, either through overuse or from inadequate training or poor technique.

Some of the more common injuries include the following

  • Tennis Elbow – This is a common overuse injury to the muscles and tendons around the outer elbow, usually caused by the repeated action of bending of the wrist.
  • Patella Tendonitis – Jumping is often a part of tennis and this in particular can put excessive strain on the patella tendon, which attaches the knee cap to the shinbone. Microscopic tears and injury to the patella tendon can cause pain and swelling making the affected area warm to the touch. Certain daily activities such as walking up and down stairs and kneeling may increase the pain.
  • Ankle Sprains – The nature of tennis is fast-paced and sudden sideways movement can cause the ankle to twist and damage the ligaments.
  • Stress Fractures in the Back – The motion of hyper-extending or bending the back in addition to side bending in tennis can lead to stress fractures because of the stress put on the vertebrae in the lower back. These fractures are not always painful but can result in lower back pain that is exacerbated with activity.
  • Rotator Cuff Tears – The rotator cuff provides stability and mobility to the shoulder, symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain, weakness in the shoulder and difficulty when lifting the arm.

Many injuries can be prevented by taking the following advice from our sports physiotherapist, Prashant Meshram.

  • It’s a big ask for the calf muscles to suddenly spring into action on the tennis court, especially if this is the first time in years. Warm up the feet and leg muscles by gently running the length of the tennis court for a few minutes. Then, when your heart rate increases, jump on the spot or skip for a minute or two. Finally, stretch out your calf and arm/shoulder muscles, all stretches need to be held for at least 15 - 20 seconds to be beneficial.
  • To reduce the risk of tennis elbow - an inflammation in the muscles which causes pain down the side of the forearm to the wrist - strengthen the muscles that are used in your backhand shot. Use resistance bands or weights, and strengthen your core muscles with exercises such as the plank and sit ups.
  • Make sure there is enough tension in the racket otherwise you will be working harder to hit the ball which could put strain on shoulder muscles.
  • Wear supportive footwear that will absorb the impact on a tarmac court.
  • Practise throwing the tennis ball up in the air and following it with your eyes. Or bounce the ball on your racket repeatedly without letting it drop to the ground. Mental exercise helps the brain to concentrate and stay focussed on the game, which reduces the risk of injury.
  • Drink plenty of water, dehydration causes fatigue and can put a strain on the heart.
  • Cool down after you have played. A rule of thumb is for every 40 minutes of exercise, you should have seven to eight minutes warm up and 10-12 minutes cool down. 
  • Know your limitations. If you haven’t played tennis for a while, 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.

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