Tennis is a great social and competitive sport. However, because it’s not a contact sport, we often don’t consider tennis a high-risk game for injuries.
The fast-paced nature of the sport, continuous rotation of the spine, pivoting and the overuse of the dominant hand can take a significant toll on the body. According to Sports Medicine Australia, five tennis injuries occur every 1,000 hours of participation. In light of the Australian Open beginning this week and with over 1.5 million Australians playing tennis in 2021 according to the latest AusPlay data, it’s essential that we are aware of common injuries that can occur and how we can avoid them when playing a match of tennis.
Due to the nature of the sport, it’s not a surprise that the shoulder and rotator cuff are commonly injured. The impact of the injury is often seen in the repetitive movement of the shoulder, as well as the force and high impact strokes used in an overhead serve. As the shoulder can be overused during a match, inflammation in the tendons often occurs, leading to the development of Tendonitis in the rotator cuff. Resulting in pain with overhead motion and limited movement in the shoulder.
Therefore, it’s essential to maintain sufficient strength, range of motion and stability in the shoulder joint to help avoid injury. This can be achieved through stretching and performing exercises to strengthen these areas. To help decrease inflammation in the tendon and minimise the chance of injuring the rotator cuff, aim to overhead serve with the ball slightly in front compared to behind as this motion will lessen the strains on the tendons.
During a tennis match players sprint, jump, pivot, stop and repeat. This not only puts a strain on the body, but it also places a significant impact on their knees. A common injury that tennis players are susceptible to is Patellar Tendonitis, which is the inflammation and gradual tearing of the Patellar Tendon.
Not only does the repetitive nature of the sport impact the knees, playing on hard surface courts often increase the risk of injuries to the knees and joints. To help avoid injury, ensure that you always warm up correctly as this can decrease the risk of Patellar Tendonitis. Taking breaks and increasing flexibility in the muscles surrounding the knee can also help prevent this injury.
Stress fractures in the back
Tennis players often hyperextend, rotate and bend their back in various directions during a match, as a result, stress fractures in the back are a common injury found in tennis players. These repetitive motions can put large amounts of stress on the vertebrae in the lower back and can result in Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which the vertebrae shifts forward.
Strengthening the muscles in the lower back and abdomen can help prevent and avoid stress fractures occurred in the back. Ensuring that you keep your core flexed during a match can help support the lower back muscles and avoid this injury from happening.
While you may want to practice as much as possible to improve your serve, playing too much can make you more prone to the above overuse injuries. That’s why you must take the time to allow yourself to recover between practices and matches.
If you are experiencing pain while playing tennis, contact the Progressive Physio team.