Tennis season is well underway with the French Open just finishing, Wimbledon starting today, and the Olympics and US Open coming up over the summer. Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition affecting the lateral side of the elbow in many athletes. It is typically due to repetitive overuse. With regards to tennis players, a number of factors including poor mechanics (particularly during the backhand stroke) and inappropriate racket type can predispose them to developing lateral epicondylitis. Patients with lateral epicondylitis complain of localized pain over the lateral aspect of the elbow and have pain with repetitive wrist and forearm movements.? The following are some tips to hopefully prevent this annoying injury.
1. Don?t overdo it. For those of you who haven?t played tennis since last summer, ease back into the activity. Start by hitting for 15-20 minutes before progressing up to longer matches.
2. Good form is critical. Proper technique, particularly during backhand strokes, is one of the best ways to avoid injuring the tendons.
3. A variety of rackets sizes and weights exist. Additionally, there are dozens of types of strings for rackets. Seek the help of a professional to determine the best combination for your size and skill level.
4. Warm up and cool down appropriately. Stretch your fingers, wrist, forearm and shoulder muscles before each hitting session. Afterwards, ice your elbow and shoulder.
5. A forearm counterforce brace can help lessen the stresses your elbow experiences while playing.
6. Listen to your body. If it hurts while you are playing, shut it down. Rest and use anti-inflammatories. Return to play when the pain subsides. Seek consultation with a medical doctor if the pain persists and before starting an exercise regimen.
Dr. Joshua Dines is a sports medicine surgeon in the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery. He is also a team doctor for the US Davis Cup tennis team. Based on his expertise and dedication to the field of shoulder and elbow surgery, he recently became one of the youngest members of the prestigious American Shoulder and Elbow Society.