Three most common tennis Injuries
It’s tennis season and Wimbledon is now here! So we thought we’d get into the swing of things by serving up our top tips for the most common tennis-related injuries we see here at APT, all backhanded puns aside…
The first that will come to mind for most of you I’m sure is Tennis elbow. Its technical name Lateral Epicondylitis, this is a common overuse injury, often associated with tennis players. This is due to the relationship between the classic tennis backhand shot and how the condition develops. The main muscles responsible for extending at the elbow are the wrist extensor muscles that run down the forearm and attach to the Lateral Epicondyle. In this case, the tendon that usually becomes inflamed is the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB). Tennis elbow is what is usually referred to as an overuse injury or ‘repetitive strain’. The extensors become tight and worn due to the repetitive movement of extending the elbow joint, usually with force, and this aggravates the tendon causing the tendon and Epicondyle to become inflamed.
Sports massage to the wrist flexor and extensor muscles is an effective mode of treatment for this, with technique, thorough warm-up/warm-down and stretching routines key to prevention and ensuring the condition doesn’t re-occur. Our advice is that if you do play a sport that makes you particularly susceptible, for example tennis, have regular maintenance work done for preventative measures.
There’s a theme here… Joints in the upper body, particularly those surrounding the arms, are very susceptible to overuse injuries in tennis. Shoulder ‘impingement’ is a fairly general term in the world of sports injuries, meaning that ‘a structure’ has ‘impinged’ on ‘another structure’ in the shoulder joint. More specifically, when associated with tennis, it is often the case that the repetitive action of swinging overhead (adducting the shoulder beyond 90 degrees) causes the humeral tuberosity to compress the rotator cuff against the acromion, causing inflammation, pain from the compression, and reduced movement in the shoulder joint.
Again this can be treated with manual therapy, the main aim on this occasion being to restore the range of motion in the joint, allowing fluid movement and avoiding further impingement. It is vital to take preventative measures and condition to avoid this injury. For tennis players it is hugely beneficial to incorporate sport-specific exercises and mimic these movements when strengthening, warming up and stretching. For example, controlled overhead swing movements to help warm-up and rotator cuff abduction/adduction, lateral raises to strengthen.
SLAP: not the sound the ball makes when hit a solid forehand, but an acronym for Superior Labral Anterior to Posterior. SLAP lesion sounds complicated, but really it’s a tear of the Superior Labrum in a front-to-back direction. The labrum is a band, formed from cartilage, which forms the outer rim of the Glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint). On this occasion, the injury is far less likely to deride from overuse and is more associated with heavy impact or force. For this reason, it is more common in sports such as rugby and throwing sports; bowling in cricket, for example. Though due to the levels of force applied during shots in tennis, a large force applied (particularly while the bicep is lengthened) can cause the bicep tendon to be torn away, resulting in a SLAP lesion.
This injury, unlike the others is not associated with overuse or repetitive strain, so preventative measures are more limited,. However, conditioning the biceps and deltoids with overhead press movements will reduce risk. Manual therapy can sometimes be effective in treating, but for worse levels of separation surgical methods and/or steroid injections can be necessary!