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Top injuries in Tennis players – and how to avoid them

Tennis player serving

With the Tennis season well underway at Wimbledon, it is often a time when people feel inspired to give it a go.

As with any sport, there are some common injuries that tennis players are more susceptible to. In this blog, we will highlight what these injuries are and how to avoid them as you hit the courts this summer.

 

Young tennis players

  1. Spondylosis
    This affects young tennis players in their first or second decade of life. This is a bony defect of the lumbar spine, in which a stress fracture occurs, resulting from mechanical stress at the pars interarticularis. These stress fractures most often occur due to repetitive load and stress, rather than being caused by a single traumatic event. The stress distribution at the pars interarticularis at its highest in extension and rotation movements required of tennis.

 

Adults

  1. Tendinopathies
    An overuse and overload of a tendon, in tennis this is likely to be in the wrist/elbow, Achilles, shoulder and glutes. This is due to high loads when the ball impacts with the racket or foot contact with the ground, resulting in overstretching and micro-tearing in the tendons. Tennis elbow is caused from overuse and causes pain as a result of inflammation of the tendons around the elbow. Interestingly, most cases we see are not actually from tennis at all so the name is a bit misleading. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness and heat.
  2. Calf strains and tears
    This is due to a weak and tight muscle that has been overstretched quickly or over time, resulting in a tear within the muscle or a build-up of small tears over time. Symptoms may include feeling a pop or tear, bruising, swelling, pain and heat.
  3. Lateral ankle sprains
    This is when the ligament in the outer ankle has been overstretched, resulting in tearing of the ligaments. Symptoms may include feeling a pop or tear, bruising, swelling, pain and heat, inability to weight bare.
  4. Shoulder impingement
    This can happen when a tendon in the shoulder rubs or catches on nearby tissue or bone when lifting the arm and can affect the surrounding rotator cuff tendons. This can build up over time if thoracic mobility is limited, the shoulder overcompensates and you end up overloading your shoulder muscles instead. Symptoms include pain when lifting arm between 60 and 120 degrees sideways, pain can be at the back of the shoulder, in the biceps or in the front of the shoulder joint, you may often experience a sharp pinching on movement.
  5. Disc and Facet joint irritation
    This is due to the movement patterns required in tennis. Tennis involves a lot of spinal rotation and extension, which puts lots of stress of discs and the joints in the spine, if the surrounding muscles are not strong enough. Overtime inflammation can build up in those structures and the muscles. Symptoms may include specific and sharp back pain and muscular spasms in the lower back and potential neural symptoms in the legs or lower back.

 

Tips to avoid injury:

  • Don’t increase activity suddenly from 0-100, gradually build up in effort and time. Quality over quantity!
  • Warm up thoroughly before to get blood flowing to muscles, tendons and ligaments, increasing their elasticity
  • Cool down and stretch after
  • Book a lesson with a coach at the start of each season to recheck your technique
  • Continue strengthening even out of tennis season
  • Book a running MOT
  • Listen to your body, if something does not feel right or it hurts while playing, stop and rest

 

Prevention:

Tip 1 – Preparation
Think about booking a lesson with a coach at the start of each season to recheck your technique and equipment. Certain compensations or faulty equipment can be contributing factors to musculoskeletal injuries.

Tip 2 – Be Dynamic
Always warm up thoroughly before starting the activity. It’s important to get blood flowing to muscles, tendons and ligaments to help increase their elasticity to reach those drop shots! Dynamic movements such as high knees, skipping, side steps prior to performing exercise are much more effective and useful for injury prevention than static stretches.

Tip 3 – Pacing
It’s important to take your time and increase your activity levels gradually, especially if trying something new. An increase in training volumes is the biggest risk factor for Tendinopathies. Think quality over quantity and let the body recovery between sessions!

Tip 4 – Get Strong
Resistance and strength training is a vital part of injury prevention. For our bodies to cope with the forces and demands involved in Tennis, we consistently need to build the robustness and tolerance of our joints to with stand this. This is just as important during the off season as it is during the playing season.

Tip 5 – Recovery
After you’ve finished performing your activity take the time to relax and let the heart rate come down slowly. This where a gentle walk with some static stretches will hep restore muscle length and reduce the risk of stiffening up. Don’t just go straight to sitting down again at your desk or in the clubhouse!

With all sport and activities make sure you’re listening to your body, if something does not feel right or it hurts while playing, stop and rest. If this persists then a physio appointment can help identify what’s going on and get you back on the Tennis court safely.

Book Physio MOT here.

 

All over strengthening tennis exercises to try at home:

Date Posted

July 9th, 2024

Category

Article, Synergy Physiotherapy

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