If you get knee, hip, shoulder or back pain due to playing tennis, you are not alone. They are very common across all ages and standards of tennis players.
Tennis is notorious for injuries in professional players. The two favourites for the men’s Wimbledon Championship this year have both been affected. Earlier this year, Roger Federa pulled out of The Italian Open due to a lower limb injury and Rafael Nadal is known for multiple injuries in many different regions of his body (in particular knee injuries) affecting him throughout his career. Andy Murray had a hip resurfacing surgery earlier this year for a chronic hip condition.
So what is it about tennis which makes injuries common and how can they be prevented?
Why are tennis injuries common..
Tennis is a highly dynamic game which involves fast changes of both direction and pace, stopping, rotating, starting, sprinting and jumping. This requires a high level of physical conditioning of the muscles in the lower limb and spinal regions as well as adequate joint range of movement of the lower limb joints. Due to the dynamic and unpredictable nature of tennis, acute lower limb injuries are common, for example knee or ankle sprains, or muscle strains.
Overuse injuries are more common and cause two-thirds of injuries in tennis. These occur in all regions of the body, but commonly affect the dominant arm due to the repetitive high speed and rotational nature of the tennis action. The serve places high loads on the spine due to the combination of speed, rotation and spinal extension required.
Amongst professional players, another reason for their injury risk is the particularly punishing nature of competition which can run for 11-12 months of the year, across all parts of the world, on multiple different surfaces. The physicality and speed of the game has increased, placing additional demands on the muscle and joint systems.
Some tips for how to prevent overuse injuries and minimise the risk of acute lower limb injury:
1. Warm up
This is so simple and obvious but often isn’t done properly. Warm up all the major joints of your body, in particular the hip, spine and shoulder regions. This is a good example of a comprehensive warm-up.
2. Get professional help to assess your technique
Poor technique can cause injuries. Ask an experienced tennis coach or specialist physiotherapist to analyse your serve and your other main strokes. This will make a huge difference in helping to prevent and resolve injuries. Have a look at the Top Tennis Training – pro lessons youtube channel for some excellent videos about technique.
3. Check your racket
Ensure that you have the correct tension in your strings and the right grip size for your hand.
4. Check the tennis court surface before playing
Make sure the surface is clear and dry before playing to prevent unwanted ankle ligament injury.
5. Do dynamic muscle conditioning training
Get professional advice to set you up with a programme to train for all the specific demands of tennis, this will include balance, plyometrics, dynamic position changes, spinal core muscle control as well as developing adequate and specific joint and muscle range of movement.
6. Train your rotator cuff muscles
The high loads placed on your gleno-humeral (shoulder) joint mean that you need to have a high functioning rotator cuff as well as the muscles which facilitate movement of your shoulder blade, so training of these muscles with help from a professional can help prevent rotator cuff injury and other upper limb injuries.
If you have any niggles and want to get some professional advice, then please contact us on 02027 636 8845. If you’re unsure if physiotherapy is for you then you can book a 15 minute complimentary consultation, give us a call today to find out more.