Among tennis players only a third of injuries are due to acute injury while the other two thirds are due to overuse of a muscle and improper techniques.
This month sees the beginning of the US Tennis Open, a summer sport that brings with it a whole host of health benefits and, if the proper precautions are not taken, also a risk of skeletal and muscular injuries.
One of the main injuries caused by tennis is lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow. This is an injury sustained when the tendons, which join the muscles of the forearm to the outside of the elbow joint, become inflamed and it is the result of overuse of the arm muscles. Tennis elbow manifests itself in the form of pain or a burning sensation in the elbow joint as well as a weakened ability to grip. Repetitive tennis playing can also have negative impacts on other areas of the body that are particularly engaged during a match. The constant rotation of the arm when hitting the ball can take its toll on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tears are a common consequence of frequent tennis playing. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and tendons in the shoulder that give stability and increased mobility to the joint. Frequent use of this cuff can cause tears to gradually develop in it, though this form of damage can also be the result of an acute injury. Rotator cuff tears cause a player to experience tenderness and weakness in the shoulder, difficulty in raising the arm, and a cracking noise when the joint is moved.
While the arm is often the locus of injury from tennis, the sport can also impact joints in the legs. Jumper's Knee, known medically as patellar tendonitis, is the outcome of repetitive jumping during a tennis match. The tendon which runs between the kneecap and the shin bone, and which supports the body's weight during motion, is put under excessive strain during a tennis match. The outcome is that microscopic tears form in the tendon, resulting in pain and swelling in the knee area.
While a certain level of injury may be unavoidable for serious tennis players, there is a range of measures that should be followed to prevent serious muscular or skeletal damage. One of the most important preventative steps is to ensure that the equipment you are using is right for you. Making sure you wear the correct shoes, which support the foot well, is essential to avoid ankle injuries. When picking a racket it is important to choose the right size and weight as well as grip size to reduce stress on the elbow and shoulder joints. While equipment is an important aspect of avoiding injury it is also important to prepare the body with warm up and strength exercises before a match. Flexing and extending the wrist against a light resistance can build up arm muscle mass, reducing the risk of tennis elbow injuries. The most important thing to do is to listen to your body and know when to rest it so as to allow the body time to repair itself.