The most common injuries associated with tennis are rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow, wrist strains, back pain, ankle sprains and tennis toe. Other injuries may result from random occurrences, such as a fall or collision with the tennis ball or net. Most tennis injuries can be prevented, if the athlete is in good physical condition, learns the proper technique and uses the appropriate equipment.
- Tennis elbow is inflammation of the forearm and the tendon that connects those muscles to the bone. Often, pain is felt on outside of the elbow. To prevent tennis elbow, try the following:
- Stretch the muscles of the wrist.
- Bend your arm slightly on forehand shots and when serving. Your biceps and shoulder, rather than your elbow, will take the force of the swing.
- Avoid putting too much topspin on the ball.
- When beginning a backhand stroke, start the swinging motion from your shoulder. Avoid placing your thumb behind the racket’s grip.
- Rotator cuff tendonitis typically results from overuse of the muscles and tendons that stretch from the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone. An overhead serve uses these muscles. An athletic trainer or coach should instruct players on proper technique when serving, to help reduce the chance of injury to the rotator cuff. If pain persists for more than seven days, the athlete should seek medical advice from a doctor.
- Wrist strains seem to be related to the laid-back grip position: rotating the palm upward and quickly turning the wrist over as the ball is hit. Players sometimes use this motion when attempting to achieve topspin. Coaches should instruct players on how to hold the racket using the hand-shake grip, to reduce the likelihood of suffering a wrist strain.
- Back pain seems to be related to an exaggerated arched posture used during an overhead serve. A conditioning program designed to strengthen abdominal and back muscles can minimize back pain associated with tennis. A coach or athletic trainer should instruct players on the proper form when serving and can also suggest exercises that will strengthen the correct muscle groups.
- Ankle sprains are common in tennis but can often be prevented. Athletes can minimize the risk by selecting shoes that are specifically designed for tennis and that have support built into the outer counter of the shoe. If pain, swelling or bruising is severe, the injured athlete should see a doctor.
- Tennis toe is a hemorrhage under the toenail that can occur as the toes are jammed into the front of the shoe during quick starts and stops. If the pain is severe, a physician can treat the injury by drilling a hole in the toenail and relieving the pressure. This injury can often be prevented by keeping toenails short and allowing adequate toe space in tennis shoes.
Treating Common Injuries
Assessing the severity of an injury can be difficult. When in doubt, seek the advice of a doctor. Injuries may cause:
- Limited range of motion
- Loss of strength
For minor or more common football injuries, think PRICEMM- Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Motion and Medicine. This will help to limit swelling and further tissue damage, maintain range of motion and return the athlete to play as quickly and as safely as possible.