Tennis is a very popular sport, enjoyed by both men and women, young and old, around the world. Tennis combines quick movements with hard collisions between the racket and the ball. Ball speeds can reach up to 140 mph in professional players! The quick movements in both the arms and the legs can lead to a wide variety of injuries. Fortunately, most of these problems can be treated without surgery. Preparation and proper technique can decrease the risk of injury.
Warming up and stretching are very important. Cold muscles are stiff and are more easily injured. 20 minutes of easy warmup exercises and stretching help prepare the muscles for activity.
Athletes can sweat around 1-2 liters (.5-1 gallons) every hour. Drinking fluids is important in playing your best and preventing muscle cramps. Thirst alone is a poor way of deciding how much fluid your body needs. Players should keep track of how much they are sweating and replace it with water or sports drinks.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. This is caused by too much time in hot temperatures, together with dehydration. This can cause confusion, headache, dizziness, or throwing up. Drinking lots of fluids and staying cool are key in preventing heat stroke. Sunscreen should be used if playing in sunny weather.
Newer rackets and strings have increased ball speed and ball spin but also create higher impacts, making proper equipment and proper technique more important than ever.
Ankle sprains are the most common injuries. Many tennis players wear ankle braces or tape their ankles to protect against ankle injuries. Treatment of minor ankle sprains generally consists of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), followed by exercises designed to strengthen the ankle and prevent further sprains. Children and growing teenagers can have injuries to the growth areas of the ankle. Any injury that prevents them from bearing weight should be evaluated. Sprains or fractures of the growth areas may not be visible on x-rays but can require casts. Your pediatric orthopedic surgeon can determine if any additional tests or treatments are necessary for their injury. Running, jumping, and twisting create stress on the hip joint and pelvis region. Strong tendon attachments to growing areas of the pelvis can have pain or even sudden popping symptoms. These injuries are often very different than what can occur in adult athletes. Cartilage tears in the hip can occur in tennis, and should be considered in older patients with hip pain that does not resolve with rest and therapy.
The shoulder and elbow are the most frequently injured areas. The hard hits can cause rotator cuff irritation, rotator cuff tears, and cartilage tears. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is more common in beginner players and tends to occur when hitting a one-handed backhand with a floppy wrist. Wrist inflammation can also affect tennis players.
The core abdominal muscles help to create power when serving or volleying in tennis, and abdominal strains are common. These can cause a lot of pain and often takes several weeks to months to resolve. Lower back pain can occur without an injury due to repetitive twisting forces of serving and overhead hitting.
Hands & Feet:
Blisters on the hands (from holding on to racket) or on the feet (from running) are common. Proper shoes and grip are appropriate to decrease chance of getting a blister.
- Overtraining occurs when the body does not have enough time to rest and recover from one athletic event to the next. This decreases performance and increases the risk of injuries. Change up the intensity of workouts to prevent overtraining, and be sure to include periods of rest or cross training to avoid overuse injuries.
- Proper care of injuries helps to prevent injuries from turning into ongoing problems. Playing through the pain or rushing back too early will most likely make the recovery time longer.
- Nearly all tennis injuries in children heal without surgery. However, if the symptoms are severe, or last longer than expected, talk to your physician.
- Tournaments in the summer can involve multiple matches over several days and players should stay well hydrated with water and sports drinks. Adequate time for rest and recovery can decrease overuse injuries.