While not as high-impact as some other sports, tennis still comes with injury risks. Let’s discuss some of the most common tennis injuries and what you can do to prevent your risk of injury.
Common Tennis Injuries
1. Tennis Elbow
Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, refers to the inflammation of 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, 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 comprised 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. 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.
5. 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.
Preventing Tennis Injuries
1. Make sure you have the right gear.
Choose a tennis shoe with good support to help you prevent ankle injuries. You can also wear two pairs of socks or get tennis socks, which have extra padding, to help support your ankles. Make sure your racquet has the correct grip size and string tension to reduce stress on your elbow and shoulder. 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.
Try not to arch your back too much when serving. Balance your upper body weight by bending your knees and raising your heels instead. Also, be careful not to land on the balls of your feet while jumping, as this could result in an ankle injury. Try working with an instructor who can help you 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. Core and shoulder-strengthening exercises can also help to prevent injuries from serving.
4. Take breaks.
You may think that you need to practice as much as possible to improve your game, but playing too much can make you overexert yourself. 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.
Keep these tips in mind, and you will not only lower your risk of injury, but may also improve your game.