Prior information on here below 5 common tennis traumas to avoid should be priority to any tennis player. This because tennis injuries can and do occur, regardless of a player’s skills level.
Findings from tennis injuries statistics show that traumatic/acute (sudden event) injuries and overuse injuries (these are common tennis injuries to the wrists, elbows, hamstrings, shoulders and even lower-back) that develop gradually are in the ratios of 25% and 75% respectively. (Source: American Academy of Orthopeadic Surgeons)
Injuries from tennis don’t discriminate; whether you are a pro-player, a beginner, a recreational player or even one doing cardio tennis for fitness, all are candidates for tennis injuries.
The 5 common tennis traumas to avoid:
It will help you stay fit and tennis injury free longer so that you enjoy your tennis games. One sure thing though is that, while tennis is not a contact or high impact sport, tennis injury risks are plenty.
Therefore, it’s important to at least be familiar with these 5 common tennis traumas to avoid, how they come about and their treatment should they actually occur.
The intensive and highly vigorous shoulder swings, intensive feet movements, the explosive runs and general fast paced all body motions, increases risks of injuries. They occur to even professional tennis players.
Some injuries can lead to lifelong damages and incapacitation if not handled well and by the right professionals. Therefore, being aware of the actual tennis injuries risks and the caution to be exercised is a vital training package altogether.
Subsequently, knowing how to avoid common tennis injuries begins by knowing what injuries to watch out for. These include:
1. Tennis Elbow; of the 5 most common tennis traumas to avoid:
Also known as epicondylitis, this injury is mostly suffered by tennis beginners and it undoubtedly ranks highest among common injuries in tennis and other racquet sports games.
It will mostly develop on your dominant hand as a result of inflammation around the elbow affecting normal movement of the hand.
Further, it’s worth noting that it’s not restricted to athletes only but to all who use their upper arms repetitively and don’t get sufficient breaks in between. Painters, plumbers, butchers among others are highly susceptible.
What causes tennis elbow?
Use of the wrong equipment, forearm, elbow and wrist jointoveruse (basically the over-repetitive swinging motions of the racquet) and incorrect playing technique are the main causes of the injury.
How to diagnose tennis elbow injuries?
This injury develops gradually. It is caused by the wear and tear of muscles and tendons of the forearm. As such, it would help if you can perform early diagnosis so you can take timely precaution. Three simple tests can greatly help with this.
- With your fingers aligned together and outstretched, try the up and down flexing of your wrist. This will help you observe for any pains in the forearm,
- With the help of some “comfortable weights” held in your hand, swirl your wrist in round motions to feel for any pain,
- You can also do wrist stretches of your dominant hand. Place it fully outstretched on a flat bench and then with your other hand, cover the back of the palm and attempt forearm lifts. Observe for pains while doing this.
What are the symptoms to watch out for?
Like most other common tennis injuries, this is generally characterized by inflammation and a sensationally burning pain.
The pain is on the outside of the elbow particularly when you make wrist movements.
The injury hurts as a result of the inflammation of the muscles and tendons which joins to the outside of the elbow.
It’s these tendons that allow forward and backward movements of the wrist.
- Swelling and tenderness around the elbow also manifests. This you particularly experience when you wake up in the morning.
It’s accompanied by a sharp stinging pain. Also, forearm stiffness is also occasionally experienced.
- It’s also characterized by a weakened grip without enough holding strength. This therefore negatively affect your ability to play tennis because, your range of motion is highly compromised or in worst cases, lost completely.
The only difference from the golfer’s elbow, whose effect is on the inside (medial side) of the elbow, is that tennis elbow’s effects are on the outside (lateral side) of the elbow. They affect tendons used to extend the wrist forward and flexing the wrist backward respectively.
How to avoid tennis elbow:
The main cause is the forearm muscles and tendons being under severe and sustained stress. Therefore, then you need to find ways of reducing the stress and have some injury free tennis.
- Muscle strengthening: Strong legs and core muscles help generate sufficient force to hit the balls. Inability to yield that sufficient force, you’re likely to have the wrist’s extensors repetitive overuse to make up for the strength deficit/shortfall.
- Reduce muscle stress: Wrong backhand technique and impact of the wrist are the major sources of the stress. As such, a double-handed backhand can help reduce the stress and impact.
- Proper Warm up/down: This has been proven to prevent and fix most the common injuries in tennis. It’s critical, that you always ensure to start with as good warm-up before high intensity play and finish off with a warm/cool down.
This benefits you with increased balance and circulation in the muscles. Subsequently, risks for muscle strains are reduced.
- Right racquet size: Always ensure that you are using a racket with the right weight and string tension.
It must also be the right size for your grip. All these reduce tension on the tendons as you swing the racquet.
- Padding to reduce shock: Shock impact on the wrist causes unnecessary stress. Gloves and padding can absorb the shock and slow the impact.
- Supportive braces: Additionally, you can use tennis wrist braces and supportive counter-force tennis elbow braces to help your joints counter the impact.
Some people choose the tape as supportive brace. However, its less effective because it’s weakened by sweat and vigorous hand swings.
- Professional Instructor: Working with a professional instructor who will guide and train you on how to use the right accessories and ultimately how to avoid common tennis injuries is encouraged.
Treating tennis elbow:
While learning of the 5 common tennis traumas to avoid, you should also learn of the treatment methods if unfortunately, the injury occurs.
Two effective treatment methods can be; natural and medical interventions methods.
Natural interventions for tennis elbow: These include;
RICE technique. This technique is incredibly common and highly recommended as a primary line treatment method. It entails employing:
“R” – Rest. Resting the arm is incredibly therapeutic in itself.
“I” – Icing reduces blood flow to the inflammation, reducing pain.
“C” – Compression of the inflamed area with a brace reduces swelling.
“E” – Elevating the arm scales down blood flow to the area.
- Healthy diet application. Water retention in the muscle tissues aggravates inflammation. Sodium rich foods contributes to this.
Therefore, repairing damaged tissues requires anti-inflammatory foods.
Vegetables, magnesium and high-potassium rich foods, collagen and clean protein-rich foods are highly recommended.
Fruits too, like pineapples and berries are a great dietary intervention.
- Use of essential oils application on the areas to hasten the healing and lower the inflammation.
These oils have proven effectiveness in healing and repairing mildly damaged muscles and tissues and soothing pain.
Medical Interventions include:
- Use of Postural/Egoscue therapy. It’s a therapy used to enhance functional mobility ensuring that your range of motion is maintained.
It’s primarily meant to correct any musculoskeletal misalignments to restore the right posture. This eventually reducing pain in the joints and muscles.
- Corrective surgery and use of steroids;
Mild and early stage tennis elbow injuries naturally fizzle out on their own. Mostly without a fuss.
However, it’s time to seek medical assistance if it takes longer than say 4-6 weeks. That’s especially when you have applied the common and naturally effective first line precautions and interventions.
in-case it persists and is deemed fit, then steroid injections can be administered .
However, in worst cases, correction surgery is inevitable.
However, the above should strictly be guided by a qualified orthopedic physician.
Further, you’ll need a professional physiotherapist’s guided exercises program to help you stretch and strengthen your forearm muscles for quick and safe recovery.
Recommended exercises to avoid tennis elbow:
Exercises play a critical role in preventing most common injuries in tennis. These exercises will do you a lot of good;
- Make a mock salt pinch, like from a tray with all your fingers together. Ensure every finger has contact with the thumb,
- Using a rubber band, gently wrap around all the fingers. Ensure the band doesn’t slipping out,
- Repetitively, try to open up the fingers (rubber band still in place) as far as you possibly and close till you can’t take it anymore for that session,
- With time, you can increase the tightness of the rubber band wrap.
Eventually, this exercise develops your hand’s gripping strength.
These tennis elbow stretches also are useful.
Wrist Flexor stretch:
- With your palm upward facing, fully stretch out your arm,
- With the other hand, hold the fingers by the tips, of the outstretched arm and pull them back towards your chest for 15-20 seconds. The effect should be felt in your inner forearm.
- Now, do the opposite by bending your hand downward till you feel stretch on the forearm,
- This you can do about 5-10 times in every session. With time, you can increase the sessions and repetitions per session.
Wrist extensor stretching:
- Place your forearm on your thighs or on a bench such that the hand from the wrist onward isn’t resting on the thigh or the bench.
- With your upward facing palms holding the some weights, say dumbbells, gently lift and lower the weights by folding the arms at the wrist,
- This you do repeatedly and gradually increase the repetitions per session.
- Ball squeezing: This exercise is a highly recommended to build strength in the hands. By holding a tennis ball in your hand, grip and squeeze hard for a few seconds, then release. You can do this repeatedly.
- Pilates exercises to strengthen your core:
Remember your core is critical in generating the power for powerful ball hits. Deficiency of the power leads to overuse of your wrist to make up for the deficit.
Therefore, Pilates exercises are good to strengthen your core (stomach and back).
- Hummer and bicep curls are also good to build strength in your forearms.
2. Jumper’s knee injury:
Adding to the list of injuries in tennis, this is another of the most common tennis traumas to avoid and just like tennis elbow; this too develops gradually due to overuse and can potentially lead to patellar tendonitis.
As a result of the explosive jumps on a hard surface, you are very vulnerable to your patellar tendon (this attaches the knee cap to the shinbone) suffering strain as well as microscopic tears.
The pain thereof makes it difficult to walk normally especially if it persists unattended.
How to avoid the injury?
Precaution is of utmost importance. These measures include;
- Knee stability: This is achieved by adequate post workout stretching and foam-rolling. Subsequently, you are able to build strength and stability in your core (lower back) and hamstrings.
You can blend with low impact exercises like brisk walks and swimming. These build strength and stability of the knees.
- Right footwear: Ensure that the arches of your feet are well supported. Ensuring always to play in the right shoes.
- Avoid overexertion: Avoid hard and prolonged plays without adequate rest to reduce injuries exposure.
How do you treat jumper’s knee?
As first line intervention, the RICE Method is recommended. However, if it persists, you are advised to seek the services of an orthopedic physician. The method is applicable in all of the 5 common tennis traumas to avoid.
As per the doctor’s assessment, corticosteroids injections from the wide range of medical interventions available may be recommended.
Further, you should NEVER rush the recovery process else you aggravate the knee damage.
You may need walking crutches as walking aids. They help to counter or shift the weight from the recovering knee. Additionally, knee braces help to hold it in place.
3. Rotator cuff tears/injury:
Hands stability and their multi-directional motions is made possible by a collection of muscles and tendons known as rotator cuff. These muscles and tendons converge at the shoulder.
Inflammation caused by over use of these tendons results to rotator cuff tendonitis of the dominant hand. Subsequently, you experience severe pain around the shoulder.
This therefore is one of the common shoulder injuries in tennis which if not well treated, can end your tennis playing ability. The damage to the shoulder may limit your hand motions and other normal hand functions.
Though not too common, the inflamed tendons may be trapped in the shoulder. This results to impingement syndrome. Subsequently, making back ward and overhead reach motions is extremely painful or impossible.
However, the risks of occurrence increase with age.
What exposes you to shoulder injuries in tennis?
The first culprit causing strains to your tendons is the repetitive over-head hand motion resulting in gradual degradation.
Sudden and abrupt impacts/jerking also cause injury to the shoulder.
How to prevent rotator cuff tendonitis:
- Like many other tennis injuries prevention mechanisms, shoulder strength building exercises and stretches are a must. Exercising with resistance bands is very effective.
- Getting good rest is critical for your muscles rejuvenation.
- Safe technique adaptation that allows you good posture and reduces strain to the muscles when making the overhead hits.
Hit the ball from a few inches ahead of you rather than directly overhead of slightly behind.
How do you treat rotator cuff injuries?
- For a manageable mild case, rest and icing come first.
- A brace or sling will help hold the hand to reduce stress and pain aggravating motions,
- Non-surgical interventions like steroid injections can be applied. This however, should strictly be by a qualified orthopedic. Surgery may be an option In severe cases,
- Good physiotherapy will help with exercises needed on your recovery journey which could be anywhere between 6-12 weeks.
4. Ankle sprain injury:
This injury occurs when a ligament(s) linking to the ankle joint tears up, or is wrongly stretched. The extent of the stretch or the size of the tear dont matter.
If therefore this happens, you’ll suffer what’s referred to as a rolled of twisted ankle.
This common tennis injury results to painful, swollen and stiff ankle making stepping a challenge.
What are the risk exposures and causes of the injury?
- Sudden in motion sideways falls and awkward landing can cause twists,
- The court surface; the soft clay courts are riskier because your foot somewhat easily dig-in. This in some cases cause twists. Uneven court surfaces too increase sprain risks potential.
- Swift and abrupt direction change while in motion as a result of the multi-directional nature of tennis game.
How to prevent ankle twisting:
- Ensure you are playing on the right surface and must not be uneven,
- Always play in surface appropriate and comfortable athletic supportive footgear with adequate ankle support,
- Tennis sneakers with firm shoe outer edge support to reduce ankle rolling over chances are recommended,
- You could also use padded socks and ankle stabilizing braces as long as it feels comfortable,
- Ensure proper warm-up and worm down after every tennis session.
How to treat a rolled ankle;
- A less severe twist can be treated by RICE Method. However, close monitoring of the ankle twist is necessary,
- A niggling and persistent twist will need you to see an orthopedic for further review.
5. Stress Fractures injuries:
This is also another of common tennis traumas to avoid. The injury results from small cracks in the bones; be it on your back, leg or even the foot.
These cracks gradually but eventually lead to swelling and pains making it uncomfortable and difficult to make body motions.
What causes stress fractures injury?
- The hard tennis courts surfaces. Because of the intensive and vigorous jumps and landings while playing, the hard landing impact shock causes stress to your bones. Sustained shocks may cause cracks to the bones,
- The explosive motions of the trunk of your body causing lower back’s vertebrae/spine stress and forward shift in extreme cases and eventual cracks.
- Your poor body flexibility.
How to prevent fractures?
- Observe gradual increase of your training intensity which must always be coupled with sufficient warm-up and worm down accordingly.
- Have a professional instructor, possibly with physiotherapy know-how to help guide you in effective but safe ball techniques and exercises.
- Explore with other less impact activities to supplement tennis which is a high impact game.
- Engage back strengthening exercises and stretches to increase stability and flexibility.
How to treat stress fracture injuries:
- Take some good rest and allow the fractures to heal with minimal disturbance,
- Engage the services of an orthopedic physician for help,
- You could use appropriate braces for support,
- Controlled physiotherapy for general bone(s) recovery and strengthening.
Generally, and from available data, most of these 5 common tennis traumas to avoid above discussed result from your body’s inability to withstand the grueling demand on it. That is mostly because of poor (under/over) training.
You now know how to play injury free tennis. GOOD LUCK AND SEE YOU AT THE TOP!!!