Sports Medicine

Five of the Most Common Tennis Injuries

Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, a game played by thousands of people every day. Professional tennis players put their bodies through rigorous exercise while training and even more so when they take to the court in a competitive match. The very nature of the game, with all the stopping and starting, twisting, and repeatedly hitting the ball with extreme force, puts tennis players at risk of injury.

“Tennis Elbow”

Lateral epicondylitis, better known as Tennis Elbow, is such a common tennis-related injury that it took on the game’s name. The muscles and tendons of the forearm that attach to the humerus become inflamed. It is caused by prolonged gripping activities and the repeated impact of the tennis ball on the racquet.

The injury is more common in new tennis players because their bodies are not used to the stresses and strains of the game. Professional tennis players tend to have custom handles on their racquets, which are tailored to their grip, thus preventing this painful injury.

“Tennis Elbow Injury” by ViewMedica is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Shoulder injuries, particularly those involving the rotator cuff, are another common tennis injury. Injuries of this type are usually progressive injuries caused by a repeated overextension of the shoulder; it is common when the athlete extends their arm over their heads.

The serve is the most energy-demanding motion in tennis, one that accounts for up to 60 percent of all actions performed during a typical match. Minor rotator cuff injuries tend to repair themselves with rest and the use of anti-inflammatory medicines. Significant rotator cuff injuries sometimes require surgery to tears. If surgery is needed, it is difficult for the player to return to the same level of performance they enjoyed before going under the knife.

Sprained Ankles

Sprained ankles are extremely common injuries tennis players suffer. Roger Federer and Andy Murray have both been sidelined by this type of injury. The damage usually occurs when players twist or turn sharply, which is something that is frequently required during a game. 

Sprains come in three grades, depending on how severe they are. Grade 1 sprains are stretching or a slight tear of the ligament. Players can continue playing with minimal pain with this grade.

Grade 2 is a more severe sprain, usually with an incomplete tear. Those suffering from a grade 2 sprain can expect moderate pain accompanied by bruising and swelling. The ankle may feel stable, but the area is tender, and even walking is painful.

The most severe sprain is Grade 3. Suffering this injury makes it impossible to play tennis because the ankle is unstable and can give out. There will be intense pain, and grade 3 sprains often require surgery to rectify.

“Sprained Ankles” by ShutterStock is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are more common in younger players than in older, professional tennis players. Some 20 percent of junior players suffer stress fractures compared to only 7.5 percent of professional tennis players. They are usually the result of training too quickly, which tires the muscles and puts more stress on the bone.

If the bone cannot adjust rapidly enough to accommodate the stress, it breaks. These breaks are rarely actual breaks or displacement of the bones but tend to be hairline cracks that cause significant pain and discomfort. Common stress fractures occur in the tibia and fibula and in the metatarsals or navicular. Tennis players are also suspect to stress fractures of the spine due to spinal hyperextension caused by the unnatural positions players put themselves while serving or returning the ball.

Muscle Strains

All muscles are at risk of strain if they are called into action quickly from a standing start. Tennis players’ calf muscles are at particular risk. The Gastrocnemius, Soleus, and Plantaris muscles make up the calf muscle. They work in tandem to push off the player when they need to react to an opponent.

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