Tennis is a demanding sport. If the player is not not using the correct technique during matchplay or training, then they also put their body at risk for common tennis injuries. Common tennis injuries include tennis elbow pain and a rolled or twisted ankle.
We’ve put together a simple injury prevention guide below along with a list of the most common tennis injuries to help maintain your form. Remember to seek professional help for any persisting and/or excruciating pain.
General Injury Prevention Guide
From rolled ankles to tennis elbow pain, you can utilise the following strategies below to help prevent some of those injuries.
- Wearing proper tennis shoes is a good place to start to protect your ankles. As your game develops, you can wear two pairs of socks for extra padding.
- The size and weight of your tennis racquet should be fitted to your individual physical needs.
- Additionally, your racquet should have the correct grip size for you and the string tension should be suited to your playability. This will reduce stress to your elbow and shoulder.
- After your gear is sorted, pay attention to your technique. When serving, balance your upper body, bend your knees, raise your heels and don’t over arch your back too much. Look into having coaching lessons to help you improve your technique.
- Back to basics. Before any physical activity, you should warm up and cool down at the end. This is crucial to maintain the overall wellness of your form and prevent injuries.
- Breaks and rest are important. You risk overexerting yourself when you over train or play too much. Recovery is important for improvement in between practices and matches. Overexertion can make you more susceptible to injury.
1. Tennis Elbow
What is it? Tennis elbow pain is the inflammation of the tendons joining the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. Similar to golfer’s elbow, but it occurs on the outside of the elbow rather than on the inside. It’s usually quite painful when trying to hit a forehand or serve. You can feel this pain on your elbow in one or both arms.
Causes: In simple words, overuse is a large factor in causing tennis elbow pain. Technique and form is another big factor for tennis players experiencing tennis elbow pain – crucial to putting less stress on the smaller muscles and tendons as well as avoiding overusing your large muscles in the wrong way. Prolonged use of a grip that’s too small can contribute to tennis elbow pain as well as a grip that is too big. If your racquet is too heavy, too large or too small, it will cause unnecessary strain to your arm as you have to make up for the excessive weight of the racquet or vice versa.
Tips: For tennis elbow relief, stretching and hot and/or cold therapy will help and is a good place to start. If you are experiencing tennis elbow pain, even if you’re not sure if it’s tennis elbow, it is important to seek professional help for tennis elbow treatment as soon as possible to reduce your recovery time.
2. Rotator Cuff Tears
What is it? First, the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons keep the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the socket of the shoulder. When you get a rotator cuff tear, it means that there is a tear in that group of muscles and usually feels like a dull pain.
Causes: As the serve is one of the more demanding and repetitive motions in tennis, it puts the player’s shoulder at increased risk of wear and tear to the soft tissue. Causes include either by repetitive overhead motions over a prolonged period of time or by substantial damage to the muscles.
Tips: The key to strengthening your rotator cuff muscles is to exercise. You can usually use specific exercises to work around the pain rather than making the symptoms worse. As a tennis player, you can build up your shoulder strength with shoulder-specific exercises to reduce your chances of developing rotator cuff injury. Do not hesitate to contact a health professional for your individual needs.
3. Jumper’s Knee
What is it? Jumper’s knee is the overuse of the patellar tendon that attaches the kneecap to the shinbone. Imagine there are microtears underneath the kneecap.
Causes: Since explosive muscle contractions needed for sprinting, jumping and quick changes of directions is a large part of tennis, the motion can put excessive strain on this tendon and cause microscopic tears (injury) to the area underneath the kneecap. Poor flexibility of the quads (your thighs), hamstrings and various foot types can also add to the load on the knee. If you experience any sharp pain under your knees or aching pain after you play, you should definitely seek additional assistance.
Tips: Definitely do not try to play through any pain or you risk making the injury worse. Use cold treatments to cool the area, stretch and strengthen the hamstring and quad muscles. Look into a sports physiotherapist should your pain be excruciating or too painful to move even when not playing tennis. Side note: make sure that your shoes are not worn and offer good support.
4. Ankle Sprains
What is it? A sprained ankle is a stretch or tear in the tough bands of tissue that help hold your ankle bones together. This can cause pain and swelling in the ankle. Bruising can sometimes occur too.
Causes: This happens when you twist your ankle during a sudden change in direction or when your feet lands weirdly after a serve or jump. Tennis is usually a fast-paced game and sudden movements can stretch out or damage one of the ligaments in the ankle.
Tips: You can apply an ankle brace, apply ice and/or rest to reduce the swelling and pain. Strengthening ankle exercises is also important and we always recommend professional help for specific ankle stretches/exercises.
5. Back Stress Fracture
What is it? A common back injury in young tennis players where you usually feel the pain in the lower back area. The reason it is common in young adolescent athletes is because their bone structure is still immature and the bony bridge in the lower vertebrae can develop into a fracture and cause a slippage in the lumbar vertebrae.
Causes: In tennis, the main reason for a back stress fracture is the serve. This is due to the nature of the tennis serve where you have to bend backwards with a combined lumbar extension/rotation/side-flexion. But that doesn’t mean you will get it straight away – this happens over a long period of time due to insufficient rest and the bone cannot recover enough from the overload.
Tips: While it is not a treatment for existing back stress fractures, if you experience back pain, core stability exercises can help build up muscles to support your back as well as prevent back injuries in those who are not injured yet. In the early stages of back pain, heat can help reduce the tension and muscle spasm. Rest is always advised until the pain is away and then engage in core strengthening exercises as explained above.