Anyone for Tennis?
It’s summer, the sun is shining (some of the time), it’s the first week of July and everyone is glued to Wimbledon!!
Tennis is a great game to both watch and play but you may notice that many of the professional players are strapped, taped, icing between sets and requiring medical attention between matches.
The reason for this is that tennis is a high impact sport with lots of repetitive movements involving our backs, legs and in particular the dominant arm with which we play. This can predispose us to various upper limb and (shoulder, elbow, wrist), lower limb injuries (knee, ankle, hip).
People automatically assume this is solely a tennis related injury. However, it is actually more common in people who participate in other repetitive motion sports or activities that involve some degree of repetitive force.
Tennis is played on many different surfaces such as grass, clay, artificial grass, hard court surfaces (at the local park). Each of these surfaces have their advantages and disadvantages but with the sport being played at speed and demanding intensity, power and endurance, injuries can and will happen.
The incidence of injury is approximately 3 injuries per 1000 hours of tennis played with lower limb injuries more common than upper limb. These injuries vary in severity and most will respond to simple application of common sense and P.R.I.C.E or more recently P.O.L.I.C.E (blog-post coming shortly re this, so keep a look-out for this). Also, the level of tennis you are playing can also be an indicator for the prevalence and severity of injury.
Lower limb injuries
These injuries happen more frequently than upper limb injuries. Why?? They are caused by the speed of movement, sprinting, jumping, skidding and pivoting around the court, imagining ourselves as the athletic, professional players we watch on television!! Ankle sprains, Achilles strains, knee pain are all common conditions that we will see people attending the clinic with in the aftermath, or during, the tennis season.
Upper Limb Injuries
The most common injuries we see here will be shoulder problems related to the repetitive motion combined with the force of swinging a racquet and also tennis elbow as mentioned previously.
How Can We Avoid These Injuries??
For those that are just taking up tennis for the first time, do so with moderation in mind. Don’t go all out and think you are going to play like Serena Williams or Andre Agassi (a blast from the past) the first time you put a racquet in your hand. Ease yourself into it, enjoy it, maybe take a lesson or join a club.
For those that are playing regularly already; general fitness can play a role here. The fitter you are, the quicker you will get to the ball, the harder you can hit the ball and the easier the game can become. Again, a lesson may be advisable if there are certain aspects of your game you are struggling with. And of course, make sure you deploy a good warm-up routine into your game, including a gentle cool-down afterwards (this can be something as simple as a gentle jog or walking to the bar J).
If you starting new, it would be advisable to seek some professional advice when choosing your racquet. You will want your racquet to be suitable for your style of play, your level of experience and your size. If you are already playing the game, but you find you are suffering from upper limb injuries, then again it may be advisable to speak to an experienced tennis coach to see if your racquet choice is contributing to this.
Ensure before you play that the surface you are playing on is suitable – for example if the surface is wet, or if there are cracks on a harder court surface – Safety First!!
Footwear – seek professional advice when selecting your footwear, especially if you are planning on taking the game seriously. Due to the requirements of the game, you will want your tennis shoes to be more robust than a pair of normal running shoes.
Tennis is a great sport for kids, teaching hand-eye co-ordination, balance, speed and agility amongst many other physical benefits. Local clubs run summer-schemes, introductory offers, beginners programmes and lessons. So get out there and get exercising!!
The possibility of developing a sporting injury should never be something that would put you off playing or taking part in a new sport or activity. Any exercise is good exercise!! So get up, grab your racquet and get busy!!