The Most Common Injuries in Tennis
Tennis, “the white sport” or “the noble sport”, is one of the most loved sports worldwide. It is practiced at a large scale both at amateur and professional levels, both during the summer and winter, on grass, clay, hard and carpet courts. And although there are vast differences between the playing styles and achievements of top professional players and amateurs who enjoy tennis during the weekend, they all share one thing in common: the predisposition for injuries.
As aesthetically pleasing and enthralling as it is, the game of tennis is not free of accidents and injuries. These injuries can be caused by inadequate warming-up before the match, wearing ill-fitting or low quality equipment or training too intensely over a long period of time. It is important to realise that tennis is not a 100% “safe” sport – there is no such thing as safe sports, in fact.
However, if you plan your tennis training carefully, taking into account your level of fitness, you can avoid most of these injuries.
In other situations, no matter how careful you are, accidents will occur. In such situations, you need to know how to deal with these injuries and how to favour a speedy recovery by taking adequate treatment measures. That being said, let us go through the list of the most common injuries in tennis.
- Ankle Sprain
This is the number one type of injury in tennis. Top ATP players such as Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick are among the most notable victims of ankle sprains occurring during a training session or tennis match. This is such a common type of injury because of the continuous sideways movements of the player across the court.
When you are running in one direction and then you suddenly stop and turn to the other direction to catch the tennis ball, it is quite possible for your ankle to twist and for the ligaments to slip sideways.
The best way of treating an ankle sprain is by applying the RICE procedure: take a few days off from any kind of intense physical activity, wear a compressive bandage, ice the ankle to reduce swelling and pain and, whenever you are lying down, place your injured leg on a pillow in an elevated position. NSAIDs are also allowed if you cannot handle the pain or contain it through icing alone.
- Tennis Elbow
This type of injury is not one that happens overnight, but rather it is an accumulation of intense physical effort as you hit the ball with the racket from various positions. The cause of this injury is the inflammation of the muscles and tendons in the forearm, most frequently the lateral epicondyle (the medical term for this injury being epicondylitis).
The main cause of tennis elbow is an inadequate grip on the handle of the racket. Professional tennis players use custom made rackets with a handle specially designed for their grip and with shock absorbing foam layers on the outside. High quality tennis rackets available in stores also have this type of handle – so do not choose a cheap, low quality racket. Treatment of tennis elbow includes lots of rest, NSAIDs or, in more serious cases, injections with corticosteroids in the affected area.
- Stress Fractures of the Lower Back
Stress fractures are more common among beginner tennis players who are still learning to perfect their service. Serving a tennis ball involves complex movements of the body, from the over-extended arm, to the arching of the back at an unnatural angle. Developing an incorrect style of serving will cause micro-tearing in the muscles and even small fractures in the bones of the lower back.
The treatment for this injury is to rest up to six weeks and, subsequently, develop a more natural posture in service.
- Shoulder Bursitis
This injury is also extremely frequent among tennis players, because most of the movements in hitting the ball are made from the shoulder. This injury consists in the inflammation of a sac of liquid called the bursa, by getting squeezed between the muscles and the bony protuberance of the shoulder.
Shoulder bursitis is treated by the RICE method, combined with NSAIDs if necessary. After full healing, you should start a series of exercises to regain full mobility of the shoulder.
- Calf Strain
Legs put up a lot of work during a tennis match, and the part of them which endures most of the effort is the calf. Calf muscles help tennis players run at full speed, then brake suddenly and change direction. The strain occurs when these muscles are extended beyond their limits. In easier forms of this injury, the micro-tearing occurring at calf level can be treated by the RICE method. More severe injuries can send the player directly to surgery to fix a rupture in the muscle.