Athletic Edge - Sports Specific Injuries - Tennis Injuries and Prevention
Tennis, played worldwide, is one of the most popular racket sports. A
high number of tournaments for competitive tennis players may lead to overuse injuries, such as "tennis elbow" or wrist injuries. For noncompetitive tennis
players, improper or inadequate physical and technique training may be
the cause of overuse injuries. Although overuse injuries make up a large
chunk of tennis injuries, the good news is that such injuries can be
prevented with some changes to technique and training routines.
What types of injuries are most common in tennis?
Two-thirds of tennis injuries are due to overuse and
the other one-third is due to a traumatic injury or acute event. Overuse
injuries most often affect the shoulders, wrists, and elbows.
What are common injuries and treatments?
The injury most heard about is "tennis elbow," which is an overuse of
the muscles that extend the wrist or bend it backwards. It is also the
muscle most used when the tennis ball impacts the racquet. Proper
strengthening of this muscle and other muscles around it, along with a
regular warm-up routine, will help decrease the likelihood of
experiencing tennis elbow. Paying attention to technical components such
as grip size and proper technique can also help prevent this condition.
Shoulder overuse injuries are usually due to poor conditioning and
strength of the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff helps to position
the shoulder properly in the shoulder socket. When it is fatigued or
weak, there is some increased "play" of the ball in the socket,
irritating the tissues. The tendon or the bursa can become inflamed and
hurt. This usually produces pain with overhead motions such as serving.
If the pain persists, it can interfere with sleep and other daily
Flexing and extending the wrist against light resistance with an
exercise band three to four times a week may help lessen pain and
Twenty percent of junior players suffer stress fractures, compared to
just 7.5 percent of professional players. Stress fractures are the
result of increasing training too rapidly. When the muscles tire, more
stress is placed on the bone.
If this occurs too quickly, the bone cannot adjust
rapidly enough to accommodate the stress and it breaks. These "breaks"
are usually cracks in the bone that cause pain rather than an actual
break or displacement of the bone. Stress fractures can occur in the leg
(tibia or fibula) or in the foot (the navicular or the metatarsals).
These injuries are preventable with proper strength and endurance
training prior to extensive tennis playing. Appropriate footwear is also
critical to preventing stress fractures.
Muscle strains usually occur from quick, sudden moves. A good warm-up
followed by proper stretching can help diminish muscle strains. The
warm-up should include a slow jog, jumping jacks, or riding a bike at
Proper stretching should be slow and deliberate. Do not bounce to
stretch; hold the stretch 30 seconds or more. The best stretches are
moving stretches, such as swinging your leg as far forward and backward
or swinging your arms in circles and across your body. Proper stretching
should last at least five minutes.
If you have any concerns about an injury or how to prevent future
injuries speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer.
The athlete should return to play only when clearance is granted by a
health care professional.
British Journal of Sports Medicine. 40(5), 454-459, 2006.
Patricia Kolowich, MD
540 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, California 94301 | (650) 815-6552
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