If your idea of exercise is grabbing your set of racquets and heading to the nearest court, you’re probably glad it’s spring and you can actually play tennis outside once again. Tennis is a great form of physical activity that works out many parts of the body, but unfortunately, just like any sport it can also lead to injury.
Tennis can be played on a variety of surfaces like clay, grass, and hard court, and it requires lots of speed, power, balance and coordination in order to play properly. As a result of these factors and the general repetitive nature of tennis, a number of injuries to the elbow, wrist, knees, ankles and spine can occur. The majority of tennis injuries—about 67%—are overuse injuries. This means they come about after performing the same motion repeatedly over time, while traumatic injuries are the result of a single incident and account for the other 33%.
One of the most well-known tennis injuries is lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, which is an overuse injury of the muscles that help wrist extend. Other common injuries to the upper limbs include rotator cuff tendinitis and wrist strains, which usually occur due to the high velocity of the tennis ball and the repetitive arm motions in tennis.
Injuries to the lower limbs are also very common in tennis and are caused by the sprinting, stopping, pivoting and pounding nature of the sport. These include ankle sprains, knee pain, Achilles tendinitis and tennis toe. Due to the all the rotating of the torso in tennis, back pain and injuries may also come about in some players.
Since most of these injuries are due to overuse, it should be refreshing to know that in many cases, they can be minimized or even prevented with proper conditioning and techniques that will also improve your game. We recommend the following:
- Always warm up and stretch before playing, and cool down afterwards
- Be sure you’re using proper footwear and equipment; most tennis shoes are more robust than running shoes due to their multi-directional purposes
- Maintain adequate fitness and flexibility levels with conditioning exercises that are specific to the physical demands of tennis
- Perform strengthening exercises, especially for your arms and core muscles, to prevent overuse injuries that occur from weakened muscles
- Avoid over-repetition of any one type of shot; instead, practice a range of strokes
- Have an expert evaluate your gameplay to ensure your techniques are being executed correctly, and focus on improving areas that need work
- Incorporate some non-tennis cross-training into your exercise routine
If tennis is your favorite warm-weather hobby, then you certainly don’t want to be derailed by an injury at any point over the next few months of spring and summer. For more guidance with conditioning and strengthening exercises that will prevent injury, our Kings Mountain and Shelby physical therapists at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates & Prescription Fitness can help. Call us at 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.