Injured female tennis player, feeling pain in her leg

Common Tennis Injuries: Causes & Prevention


Tennis is a wonderful sport to play, both for fitness and enjoyment. However, if you haven’t prepared your body in the right way beforehand, you could experience both short and long-term injuries, particularly when you first hit the courts.

Playing tennis can be somewhat stressful on the body due to the amount of extra pressure you are placing on joints, muscles and ligaments. They can manifest due to overuse or lack of the correct preparation prior to playing. It is imperative to warm up your body with stretching exercises, some sprinting on the court, and a ‘knock up’ with another player before taking that first serve.

Typical tennis injuries are:

Stress Fractures

These typically occur to novice or inexperienced players who try, quite simply, to do too much too soon. All muscles need time to adjust to extra use and pressure or they will tire rapidly, causing you to create more stress on your bones.

Inevitably, your bone structure cannot cope and the resultant effect are small cracks in the bones supporting the stressed area. Small or large, these cracks can cause pain in the affected area (primarily the legs or feet). Such fractures can take up to eight weeks to heal, so adequate rest is essential, otherwise the injury may worsen.

It is important to remember that the correct footwear goes a long way in preventing stress fractures. Any old pair of trainers are not sufficient to withhold the stress that playing tennis can cause on your legs and feet, so invest in some proper tennis shoes.

Pulled Muscles or Muscle Strains

Probably one of the most common injuries caused by lack of preparation and inadequate warm up time. A series of stretching movements executed slowly where you hold the stretch for around 30 seconds, should help lessen the chances of pulling particular muscles.

You may have seen professional players swinging there arms round in circles in front of their bodies – they do this to stretch the arm muscles before play. Slow jogging will also assist in preparing you for tennis.

Tennis Elbow

One of the most commonly heard phrases for an injury caused by overuse of the tendons in the forearm. Tennis Elbow can also be caused by poor technique or the incorrect grip size on your racquet.

When choosing a racquet, make sure that you consult your tennis pro about your grip size, who will show you a series of tests you can do to ensure you buy the right one.

Shoulder Injuries

Again, very common in tennis players and an understandable injury if you take serving the ball into consideration. The shoulder is a ‘ball and socket joint’ which if inflamed, can cause considerable pain and stiffness. The resulting effect is a form of ‘bursitis’, which happens when the tendon and surrounding tissue are irritated and become swollen and uncomfortable.

Inside the shoulder area is a set of muscles, known as ‘the rotator cuff’, which hold the shoulder joint correctly in place. Overuse of this muscle set can potentially cause injury, so correct preparation before playing is necessary.

The best preparation and indeed to help prevent this injury is light resistance training, by flexing the wrists with an exercise band. Shoulder injuries can be very debilitating and it won’t just be tennis that is affected – there are many day to day tasks that you do that you would find difficult to accomplish with this injury, including sleeping.

Back Injuries

Back injuries can occur in tennis players quite frequently, and usually in the lower lumbar region. These can take the form of everything from sudden spasms, to continued pain and difficulty in making rotating movements in the torso.

Considering the number of times you turn backwards and forwards to take your stroke on the ball or complete a serve, it is understandable that these muscles will become fatigued.

Back injuries must be treated carefully, to avoid further damage to muscles and vertebrae. In the worst case scenario, you could end up with a stress fracture in your back, which is more serious and will take longer to cure.

Injuries in tennis, however well-trained you are, are extremely common. The best way to lessen the chances of injury is by adequate preparation before taking to the court. Never push yourself to play with an injury you can do more damage by doing so.

If any of these injuries persist we strongly recommend you go and see a doctor.

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