As New York City warms up for the summer, tennis players are taking to the courts. Here’s how to prevent some common injuries from interrupting the game.
With summer here, tennis players are heading outdoors for some sunshine and a great workout. Tennis offers many physical benefits, such as enhancing eye-hand coordination, balance, and flexibility. As with any sport, however, athletes may be susceptible to injuries if they don’t take the proper precautions.
Tennis injuries result mainly from the repetitive nature of swinging the racket, as well as abrupt changes in direction to chase after the ball. Proper technique and equipment can help prevent these injuries, but if they do occur, rest and physical therapy will generally get players back on the court as soon as possible.
FOUR COMMON TENNIS INJURIES
Any strenuous physical activity increases the odds of an injury. Among tennis players, these are the four most common types.
Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is a form of tendonitis. Repeated swings of the tennis racket can inflame the tendons of the elbow and forearm, leading to a burning pain radiating from the forearm to the wrist. Other symptoms include wrist immobility and an inability to grip objects.
Tennis elbow responds well to rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles. Players may be fitted with a customized elbow strap or brace to stabilize the muscles and tendons.
The piriformis muscle extends from the base of the spine (sacrum) and attaches to the femur. Though small, the piriformis allows the glutes to rotate the hips. Because tennis players frequently lunge and change positions to hit the ball, the glutes and the piriformis may become overworked from all the twists and turns. Symptoms of piriformis syndrome are similar to sciatica — pain starting in the lower back and hips that extends to the buttocks.
Due to the small size of the piriformis, a physical therapist works with the patient to stretch and lengthen the muscle. These exercises should improve flexibility and expand range of motion. A sports medicine specialist can also help tennis players strengthen their glutes.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
The shoulder is supported by a network of tendons and muscles. Repetitive overhead motions such as serving the ball can cause rotator cuff tendonitis. A common symptom of this condition is pain at the tip of the shoulder.
To manage rotator cuff tendonitis, physical therapy, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and icing serve as the first step in treatment. Exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve mobility in the shoulder joint are generally part of a physical therapy program as well. Steroid injections may also be prescribed to heal rotator cuff tendonitis.
Sudden changes in direction are a frequent part of playing tennis. Yet these abrupt shifts can cause sprains in the ligaments of the ankle. A stretched ligament will cause pain, especially when weight is placed on the ankle. Other symptoms include swelling and bruising and a limited range of motion.
Though there are different classifications of ankle sprains, all are treated conservatively with rest, elevation, and ice. Patients should be careful not to put too much pressure on the ankle. A special brace may be placed around the ankle to help the sprain heal. More serious sprains require physical therapy to restore flexibility and build up the muscles in the ankle.
HOW TO AVOID COMMON TENNIS INJURIES
Tennis players shouldn’t abandon the sport they love just because there’s a chance of getting hurt. Following these four tips will help athletes avoid injury while on the tennis court.
1. Use Proper Techniques.
Many injuries could be avoided if players used the proper techniques when hitting and serving the ball. Working with a trainer, athletes can alter how they serve so their rotator cuff isn’t over-taxed. To prevent tennis elbow, players who backhand the ball with one hand should change to a two-handed technique to reduce the stress on the elbow and forearm muscles.
2. Get the Right Equipment.
A tennis pro can help find a racket that’s the right size for the player’s grip. In addition, specially-made tennis shoes add firm support along the outer edge of the footwear. This will help prevent ankle sprains. An ankle brace also provides extra support for the ankle.
3. Warm Up.
As with any athletic activity, warming up before hitting the court cuts down on the chance of an injury. Players should focus on exercises that strengthen the core and the shoulder muscles.
4. Know When to Rest.
A brisk tennis game provides many cardiovascular and other health benefits. But powering through when tired leads to over-exertion that could result in an injury. If athletes feel fatigued they should stop playing and rest.
The orthopedic experts at New York Bone & Joint Specialists have treated many tennis-related injuries. We know how important it is to stay active and return to the court as soon as possible. Our therapists and doctors will develop a treatment plan so you can continue to play the sports that you love. Contact our office today to make an appointment.