Two-thirds of tennis injuries are due to overuse and the other one-third is due to a traumatic injury or an acute event. Overuse injuries most often affect the shoulders, wrists, and elbows.
These injuries are largely preventable. Physiotherapists Angela Sabine and Sarah Verrion from United Health Kent are happy to give advice on injury prevention, as well as suitable rehabilitation following injury. At the Sandwich Leisure Centre we can give advice on the best exercises to get fit preseason. The gym in the Leisure Centre is the ideal place to achieve fitness pre season or regain fitness after treatment.
Tennis Elbow/ Common Extensor Tendinosis
The injury most heard about is “tennis elbow,” which is an overuse of the muscles that extend the wrist or bend it backwards. It is also the muscle most used when the tennis ball impacts the racquet. Proper strengthening of this muscle and other muscles around it, along with a regular warm-up routine, will help decrease the likelihood of experiencing tennis elbow. Paying attention to technical components such as grip size and proper technique can also help prevent this condition.
Shoulder overuse injuries are usually due to poor conditioning and strength of the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff helps to position the shoulder properly in the shoulder socket. When it is fatigued or weak, there is some increased “play” of the ball in the socket, irritating the tissues. The tendon or the bursa can become inflamed and hurt. This usually produces pain with overhead motions such as serving. If the pain persists, it can interfere with sleep and other daily activities.
Muscle strains usually occur from quick, sudden moves. A good warm-up followed by proper stretching can help diminish Muscle strains. The warm-up should include a slow jog, jumping jacks, or riding a bike at low intensity.
Proper stretching should be slow and deliberate. Do not bounce to stretch; hold the stretch 30 seconds or more. The best stretches are moving stretches, such as swinging your leg as far forward and backward or swinging your arms in circles and across your body. Proper stretching should last at least five minutes.
Prepare your body
When playing sport, you’ll need to prepare the muscles that are needed most. This is done in a warm-up session before the game and a cool down session afterwards. This should last about 15 minutes. Here are the muscles to concentrate on for tennis and how to stretch them:
These are in the thigh and can be stretched by standing on one leg, supporting yourself against a wall and then pulling the other leg up behind you by the foot. Keep your pelvis straight and pull the foot into the buttocks. You’ll start to feel the stretch in your thigh. Repeat with the other leg.
The hamstrings lie at the back of your leg; the opposite side of your thigh. Stretch them by lying on the floor, pulling one leg up under the knee and then straightening that leg out. You’ll feel the stretch in your hamstring. Now do the same with the other leg.
Adductor (thigh) muscles
On the inner thigh are the adductor muscles. These can be stretched by adopting a wide leg stance and then leaning over to one side. As you do this, the weight bearing leg should bend and the stretch felt on the inner thigh. Repeat this with the other leg.
Next up are the calf muscles. The upper calf can be stretched by lunging on to a bent leg and keeping the other straight with its heel on the floor. Do this gradually so the body weight eases on to the bent leg. You’ll start to feel a stretch in the calf. The lower calf can be stretched by placing the feet one in front of the other and then bending at the knees while keeping both heels on the ground.
The hip muscles can be stretched by kneeling on one leg with the other at a ninety degree angle. Ease forward on to the bent leg and keep your back straight. Repeat with the other leg. The buttocks require stretching by lying down and then pulling one leg up to your chest. Feel the stretch and then repeat with the other side.
Trunk and pectorals
The trunk stretch involves standing with one arm straight above the head and then leaning over to the side. Repeat with the other arm. The pectorals (or chest muscles) can be stretched by clasping your hands behind your back and then slowly lifting your arms upwards until you feel the stretch. The final muscles to do are the triceps in the upper arm. Do this by raising the arm above the head, bending the elbow and grasping the elbow with the other hand. Slowly push backwards and feel the stretch. Repeat with the other arm.
Get the right equipment
Getting advice from a good sports shop on the right racket to use and what grip size to buy is very important. Having the right racket stops a lot of the mechanical stresses on the wrist and elbow which lead to tendon overuse.
Good trainers are equally important to give the player grip on the court and support the ankles during the fast twist and turns during the game.