Tennis balls aren’t the only things that take a pounding on the court. Whether you are a casual weekend player or a serious match competitor, your joints take a pounding, too. Tennis requires almost constant twisting, turning, lunging, quick starts and sudden stops – and that’s during just one game. Imagine the stress and strain joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles undergo during an entire match.
It’s no wonder tennis puts players at risk for a variety of physical woes. Even the world’s best players are susceptible: Rafael Nadal lost the 2014 Australian Open Finals, a match he was favored to win, due to ongoing problems with his left knee. From amateurs to professionals, injury can strike at any time. Before taking the court this season, read this brief overview of potential on-court pitfalls.
Tendonitis. Many tennis injuries occur to the lower limbs. Among the most common is knee tendonitis, which is caused by overuse of the joint and stress on the patella tendon. Tendonitis is characterized by pain around the knee and tendon, stiffness of the knee in the morning and pain associated with increased movement.
Ankle sprains are also commonplace. These occur when the ankle rolls on an uneven surface, or when the foot awkwardly plants while running or jumping. This causes the ankle ligaments to overstretch. When injury occurs, you might hear a popping sound, followed by swelling and bruising of the ankle and the onset set of pain. Ankle sprains can range from mild to severe.
Upper limb injuries are also associated with tennis, since they’re generally caused by high velocity and repetitive arm movement. Everyone is familiar with tennis elbow, which affects the bony bump outside the elbow where the muscles that extend the wrist and fingers attach. The injury is characterized by pain when gripping or when the muscles are stretched. There will also be tenderness at the affected area.
Shoulder injuries can also be frequent for tennis players. Because the shoulder joint is highly mobile and relatively unstable, injury to the rotator cuff (a group of four muscles that control shoulder movement) is common. These injuries are due to repetitive movement, and include rotator cuff tears, impingements and tendonitis. General signs of shoulder injury include clicking when the arm is raised to shoulder height, pain that extends from shoulder to elbow, shoulder pain at rest and shoulder muscle weakness.
Overuse injuries can also occur in the wrists, back and hips. These can be characterized by localized pain around the affected area, joint stiffness, muscle and tendon soreness and increased pain during movement.
Awareness and proper precautions may help to prevent injury. If they do occur, it is best to seek medical attention.
Now that you’re armed with some facts about potential missteps, it’s time to pop open a fresh can of balls, grab your trusty racquet and hit the court!