In beautiful Southern California, the beckoning call of the tennis court is a year-round affair, which is so very tempting for many of us. Tennis is a fantastic sport with numerous health benefits. It is a full-body workout that increases heart and lung (aerobic) capacity, and it decreases the resting heart rate and blood pressure. Playing tennis also improves muscle tone, strength, endurance, flexibility of the skeletal body, and bone density. Mental acuity and overall mood are heightened and improved by vigorous play on the courts in the beautiful outdoors.
Tennis ranks about sixth in popularity in the United States. It is one of my favorite sports, and I enjoy providing medical care to all players from beginning to professional levels as a sports medicine physician in my primary care office and at various professional tournaments throughout California.
COMMON TENNIS INJURIES
As a sports medicine physician, I see a large number of tennis-related injuries in my office. The most common injuries in tennis are:
- Ankle Sprains: Over-stretching of ankle ligaments, which can vary in severity from a mild sprain, from twisting or rolling the ankle, to severe complete ligament ruptures.
- Shoulder Injuries: The structural element most affected is the rotator cuff, which provides stability and mobility to the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries can be caused by overuse on overheads and serves. Tears can occur with continued overuse or acutely.
- Patellar Tendonitis: Another overuse injury affecting the patella tendon of the knee joint is patellar tendonitis caused during jumping and landing activities.
- Tennis Elbow: Repetitive use of the muscles that extend the wrists or bend it backwards creates inflammation of the tendons joining the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. Impact of the tennis ball to the racquet contributes to the creation of tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis. This may be affected by different strings, tension of strings, rackets, and poor stroke mechanics. Using old tennis balls may also aggravate this.
- Low Back Strain: This is frequently due to tight hamstrings.
PREVENTION IS KEY
Prevention is key to the successful enjoyment of tennis. There are some very important factors that all tennis enthusiasts should consider:
- Proper strengthening of the supporting muscles used in tennis should be added to your regular fitness regimen.
- Warming up the large muscle groups and stretching exercises (and in that order) prior to training, practice, or a match can decrease the probability of injury. Short court is one example of this.
- The importance of body mechanics – your form – and utilizing proper technique cannot be overlooked.
- Taking appropriate breaks for rest and water are crucial to provide adequate muscle recovery. Proper hydration will help prevent strains.
DEALING WITH AN INJURY
If you experience an injury, I recommend the RICE treatment plan:
- REST: Discontinue the activity immediately. “No pain, no gain” is not a theory to hold near and dear to your heart. It is best not to do anything to reproduce the pain associated with the injury.
- ICE: For the first few days after the acute injury, apply ice for 10-minute cycles, which helps to reduce pain and swelling in injuries involving soft tissue, such as bruising, muscle tears, or sprains.
- COMPRESSION: A simple elastic wrap or compressive bandage should be applied in most cases, which will help to control bleeding and swelling during the first few days.
- ELEVATION: While resting an injury of an arm or leg, elevating it at the same time, keeping it comfortably rested above the heart, will also assist in the overall decrease of pain and swelling.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE
Many overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, develop over time, and symptoms can be subtle. Delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to more serious injuries. It is time to seek medical attention when symptoms do not go away after rest and home care. Any condition that affects training and performance should been seen by a qualified physician. Medical care should be sought when there is an increase in pain, swelling, mobility, and/or discomfort.
If you have suffered a tennis injury or any other type of sports injury, please feel free to come in to our urgent care office – no appointment is necessary! Or you may contact our office for an appointment with our other sports medicine specialists.
The content provided in our website blogs is offered for informational purposes only, and it should not be considered as the practice of medicine or medical advice regarding the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition or disease. You should consult with a medical professional if you have any questions regarding a condition or disease in relation to your specific healthcare needs. If you feel that you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911 immediately.