Tennis Injury Prevention – The Complete Guide
Unfortunately, however much we may love the game of tennis, there can always be too much of a good thing. When the load we put onto our bodies becomes too much, we may develop tennis related injuries that can sideline us for weeks or even months!
But, if you are suffering from a tennis related injury at the moment or simply want to prevent injuries from occurring as best as you can, you’ve come to the right place!
How Tennis Related Injuries Occur
You may think that most tennis related injuries occur in one fell swoop, meaning an acute injury that stops you in your tracks like a rolled ankle or a pinch in the shoulder.
While these injuries are common they can also be easily avoided if you take time to warm up and remove hazards such as stray balls from your area of play.
However, in reality it is the less common, chronic injuries that build up gradually over time that are the hidden killers in tennis.
Conditions such as tennis elbow, tendonitis in the knees and even stress fractures in the back are more common than you might think and all come as a result of playing tennis.
Now, that’s not to say that you are at risk of a server injury every time you step onto a tennis court. Afterall, tennis is a non-contact sport that is not designed to cause any form of physical damage to those playing it.
However, it is the progressive build up of repetitive movements that can lead to long lasting pain that can sideline tennis enthusiasts for months. However, there are plenty of ways to treat and ultimately prevent these common injuries which may come as music to your ears!
We believe that prevention is better than cure, so here is a guide that will give you everything you need to know about tennis related injuries and how to prevent them!
The Most Common Tennis Injuries
Depending on the surface you play on, how physical your style of play is, your equipment and how often you play tennis, you may develop one or more of the following injuries as a result of playing tennis.
So, look out for the signs and follow the various prevention steps further on in this article if you want to play tennis pain free!
By far the most well known and certainly one of the most commonly suffered injuries by tennis players is the notorious tennis elbow.
To give it its full name, lateral epicondylitis, this uncomfortable tennis related condition develops from an inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow, causing a great deal of pain when a player hits the tennis ball.
This is a similar condition to golfer’s elbow, which develops on the inside of the arm rather than the outside.
Tennis elbow may actually stem from other activities such as painting, trimming hedges, gardening and even excessive writing or typing.
All of these activities can cause the chain reaction for tendon inflammation around the elbow area, which can be exacerbated by tennis thanks to the repetitive strain that playing tennis puts on the dominant elbow.
Tennis elbow can also develop through playing other racket sports like squash or badminton, so it is not just tennis that puts you at risk!
Symptoms typically include a burning sensation or extreme tenderness when swinging the tennis racket and making contact with the ball, which can cause the area of the outer elbow to throb.
The pain can also spread down the forearm and weaken the grip strength of the player suffering from it.
Patellar Tendonitis, or tennis knee and you may have heard it referred to in the past, is a conduction that many tennis players will suffer from at one point or another.
The patellar tendon connects the kneecap and the shin bone, so is often put under a high load of stress when playing tennis, thanks to the constant twisting, turning, starting and stopping involved.
When there is too much high load placed on the tendon over an extended period of time, the tendon can actually suffer from micro tears which causes it to become inflamed and very sore.
This area of the knee can then become very tender and cause a lot of discomfort when walking, running or jumping.
The ankles are placed under a lot of stress when playing tennis. Having to bend down low one minute then jump up high the next, then change direction quickly and even slide on a hard court means it is unsurprising that the ankles can get injured a lot.
A common ankle injury is a sprain. This is caused by the sudden changes of direction and twisting that the ankles must perform, which causes the ligaments in the ankle joint to be overstretched or even damaged.
An ankle sprain will cause a sharp pain and usually swelling, the ankle will usually go red as blood rushes to the injured area and it will be incredibly tender to the touch. Bruising can also occur and you will likely be unable to play through the pain!
Rotator Cuff Tears
The rotator cuff has come into the limelight in recent years, as more and more people have started to take up racket sports like tennis and injuries to the area are becoming synonymous with tennis!
It is easy to see how injuries to this part of the body occur though, as the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff help to keep the shoulder stable and strong.
However, since these muscles are often underdeveloped as they are not commonly used in day to day life, suddenly adding a load of extra stress to the shoulder area from playing tennis can easily cause an impingement or tear to the rotator cuff.
Rotator cuff tears usually happen gradually rather than in one sudden movement, as the repetitive nature of tennis means progressive stress is placed on the shoulder joint.
However, one particularly jarring motion can push the rotator cuff over the edge and cause a sudden lack of strength, tenderness or pain to the shoulder which could actually be the result of months of wear and tear.
Back Stress Fractures
Something that may seem a bit serious for a tennis related injury but actually occurs more often than you might think are stress fractures in the back.
Since tennis is a sport that requires you to use almost all of the muscles in your body, the core muscles in the back and abdomen are used an awful lot to stabilize the outer limbs.
Back stress fractures often occur as a result of serving, as the back needs to hyperextend and move from side to side in rapid succession to perform the movement. This movement places a great deal of stress on the lower back and can easily lead to a stress fracture.
This is definitely an injury that can occur over a long period of time and you may not even feel any significant pain to begin with, which makes it even more important to catch this one early so you don’t suffer from chronic, debilitating back pain in the future.
How to Prevent Tennis Injuries
Now, we have discussed some of the most common tennis injuries, so let’s dive into how you can prevent these from occuring in the first place!
Warm Up Exercises
Whilst warming up may seem boring, it is an essential part of reducing your risk of injury.
Doing exercises that raise your heart rate, get blood pumping through your muscles and prime specific muscle groups for the tennis session ahead is really important if you want to increase the longevity of your tennis career.
Doing exercises like shoulder raises with a resistance band, wall sits, arching your back on all fours, shuttle runs, lateral lunges and scapular presses can help warm up and strengthen these high risk areas of the body and make swinging a tennis racket and chasing the ball around less of a shock to your body.
You can also make warming up more fun by playing games like Swedish handball, football tennis, tennis badminton, 4D touch, Bim Bam or Mind the Gap.
Strengthening the muscles that you will be using a lot when you play tennis is another great way to condition your body for the high stresses that playing a lot of tennis can place on it.
Exercises that build up strength and stability in the legs, ankles, knees, shoulders and back are all great for priming your body for the intensity that a hard tennis session can bring.
Try adding single leg squats, single leg calf raises, single leg romanian deadlifts (on an unstable surface is even better), shoulder presses, lateral raises, lateral lunges, bent over rows and face pulls to your tennis workout plan and you will have a bulletproof physique that can play tennis for hours and hours.
Manage Load on the Body
Whilst we all love playing tennis as much as we can, playing too much can actually do us more harm than good. Managing the amount you play (whether that be the length of an individual session or the frequency of play over a week) is a key part of preventing tennis related injuries.
It is important to listen to your body and recognise if you have a niggle or ache that should be rested.
It’s all well and good trying to play through the pain, and sometimes this has to be done in a competitive situation to get the win. But, if you are consistently having pain in a certain area of the body and you ignore it, you could be on a one way street to a serious injury.
Use the Right Equipment
One of the most important but often overlooked areas of preventing tennis injuries is actually the equipment you use.
Sometimes, using a racket that is too light or too heavy can place a lot of strain on the muscles in your hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder and actually lead to tennis elbow and other aches and pains.
Moreover, using shoes that are not designed for the surface you are playing on or not suitable for your style of play can also lead to injuries to the ankles, knees and even the lower back.
Therefore, using an arm friendly racket if you are suffering from tennis elbow or picking shoes that reduce the stress on your knees can be great ways to lower your risk of injury simply by optimizing the tennis equipment you use.
Think About your Technique
Finally, another way that you can reduce the risk of you developing tennis related injuries is actually how you play the game.
The way you swing the racket, how you hold your grip, the way you move and the game style you adopt can all play their part in determining whether you will suffer from more severe injuries or not.
So, if you use a very extreme grip, stomp around the court, have an unorthodox swing that places a lot of strain on your arm, or play a very physical style of tennis that involves a lot of running and jerky movements, you may want to go back to the drawing board.
Recognising when you may be doing yourself more harm than good when it comes to how you actually play the game is a mature thing to do and it takes humility. But, looking yourself in the mirror and changing things up before you cause yourself a bad injury is well worth it.
Overall, tennis related injuries are very common as the sport requires a lot of movement patterns that we may not be used to in everyday life. Some of these injuries come from one off movements, but most develop over time and can be prevented by taking note of the steps above.
So, make sure you warm up, perform corrective exercises, strengthen your muscles and pay attention to your equipment and technique if you are feeling any discomfort out there on the court!
Are you using the right racket for your body to stay injury free?
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