The warm weather is finally here and we have all been looking forward to hitting some tennis balls. Tennis is a great game and a fun, challenging form of exercise but like many sports it can easily result in injuries if you are not properly prepared.
Although tennis is an overhead sport, it involves the entire kinetic chain. This means that injuries can occur anywhere throughout the body. The most common injuries in tennis include: 1) shoulder pain; 2) knee pain; 3) sprained ankle; 4) calf strains; 5) tennis elbow.
Most injuries in tennis are a result of poor training and conditioning. The repetitive motions that are a routine part of the game, like the serve and groundstrokes, can easily break down the body if you do not prepare appropriately. Muscles throughout the body need to be strong and flexible and must demonstrate a good deal of stamina to make it through those long summer matches. When muscles are weak or fatigued, mechanics are altered whereabouts to increase the strain on all joints. This is when we are predisposed to injury.
Simple tips to help prevent tennis injuries:
If you have seen any professional athlete compete you notice that he/she always takes the time to warm up. By warming up we increase circulation to our muscles which helps to reduce the risk of muscle strains. Warm ups can include a light jog around the court, jumping jacks or even jogging in place.
Stretching before and after we play should become a regular part of everyone’s routine. When you stretch, be sure to take the time to hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds. Do not bounce or perform ballistic movements while stretching. Remember that tennis involves the whole body so stretching should include your shoulders, back, and legs. It often helps to stretch in a systematic manner: begin with the shoulders then move to the low back, hips and calves.
Being strong and fit will make you a better player. It is also the best method to prevent injuries. Outside the tennis court it is wise to develop a comprehensive strength program that targets the shoulder girdle, core/low back and lower body.
If you have any concerns about an injury or how to prevent future injuries be sure to speak with a physical therapist or your doctor. Addressing these components now will allow you to play and enjoy the game for many years to come.
Ioonna Felix is a doctor of physical therapy at the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center. A board certified Orthopedic Specialist and a certified tennis performance specialist, she treats players of all levels and continues to compete in tennis herself. She also has a special interest in tennis performance assessments, which she performs at the Tisch Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.