Tennis is a sport which places high demand on the body and requires players to perform technical, repetitive, high-speed movements over a prolonged period of time. The fast and repetitive movements can lead to overuse, muscle weakness and tightness and other incidents such as falls, which can all result in injury. Research would suggest that there are approximately 54 injuries for every 1000 matches played which is about half the number of injuries when compared with football. The three most common tennis injuries are:
- Ankle Sprains
- Shoulder pain
- Muscle strains
The majority of ankle sprains are caused by ‘rolling’ the ankle inwards as a result of quick movement over a short distance, with changes in direction on the tennis court. This results in the ligaments over the outside of the ankle (lateral) to overstretch or tear. Only 5-10% of ankle sprains occur to the ligaments on the inside of the ankle, as these ligaments are stronger and provide more stability than the lateral ones. Symptoms include pain over the ankle, swelling and bruising. Early rehabilitation for ankle sprains should include ankle movements, strengthening and proprioception exercises. More advanced exercises to improve the stability of the lateral ankle ligaments include single leg stand and lunges on a wobble board/cushion and lateral bounds.
Shoulder pain in tennis players is often due to the repetitive strain placed on the joint during shots, particularly the serve. Injury to the shoulder may be due to muscle imbalance, weakness and tightness. Some common causes of shoulder pain include rotator cuff injuries, shoulder bursitis and impingement. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder and provide it with strength and stability. These muscles are key in all of the tennis strokes, so it is important that athletes strengthen and stretch the muscles to prevent injury. The repetitive movements of tennis strokes can also cause a fluid-filled sac called a bursa to become irritated and inflamed, another cause of shoulder pain. Impingement is also a common cause of shoulder pain and is due to a pinching or aggravation of a tendon and/or bursa usually when lifting or rotating the arm, particularly during serving and high forehands. Shoulder pain can be prevented by strengthening and stretching all the rotator cuff muscles. Exercises include external rotation, internal rotation, shoulder abduction and hand behind back with resistance band. These exercises can be easily performed with a resistance band and it is common to see professional tennis players using these exercises during their warm up on court.
Muscle strains in tennis are often injuries to the calfs, hamstrings and abdominals as a result of muscle tightness or weakness. Calf and hamstring strains usually occur after quick explosive movements around the court, whereas abdominal strains are frequently on the non-dominant side from stretching up during the serve. Muscle strains can be prevented by doing an adequate warm up and cool down, wearing appropriate clothing and gradually building up training. Some exercises to strengthen the hamstrings and calf muscle groups include squat jumps, scissor jumps, linear and lateral bounds. Isometric abdominal contractions and crunches will work to strengthen the abdominal muscles.
If you have any of the conditions above or want to avoid injury in the future why not contact our Brighton Physiotherapy Clinic to see one our highly qualified physiotherapists for some treatment and advice.