Jun 08, 2016

Overuse injuries afflicting tennis players

I enjoy a game of tennis – I used to play at club level myself and my father actually played at Wimbledon, but tennis can be a very competitive and intense game. Eager new players and even seasoned professionals can put their bodies under repetitive stress, which is why most tennis injuries are overuse injures.

Overuse injuries are the opposite of acute injuries. In other words, rather than there being one event, which will injure the structure in a shoulder girdle for example, repetitive movements such as serving thousands and thousands of times would chronically damage a structure.

Ahead of this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championships 2016, it’s essential that players’ rigorous training sessions put them through their paces, but at the same time, do not cause injury.

Tennis players often develop rotator cuff syndrome, which is inflammation and tearing of the rotator cuff. They can develop labral tears, which is damage to the cartilage around the socket, and SLAP lesions, which is where the bicep tendon starts to pull on the top of the socket in the ball. The socket part of the shoulder girdle and osteoarthorsis of the acromioclavicular joint are also common injuries.

However, a large number of tennis injuries can be treated non-surgically: Around 80 per cent of the aforementioned shoulder injuries can be managed conservatively or non-operatively using a combination of physiotherapy, strengthening exercises and guided injections into the subacromial space and/ or acromioclavicular joint. If patients are unfortunate enough to fail to respond to this or if they have tearing of the tendons, then they need an arthroscopic surgical repair.

Common tennis injuries

Tennis elbow is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. It is a common and debilitating problem, which represents inflammation and partial tearing of the attachment of the forearm extensors to the outer tip of the elbow. Risk factors for tennis players include poor grip, wrong size racquets, insufficient shock absorption in the racquet and the strings being too tight. Optimising all of the above, carrying out regular forearm stretches and using comprehensive forearm supports are all helpful.

The rotator cuff tendons are an inner tube of tendons that come off the socket of the shoulder blade and grip around the ball of the humeral head, which is the main part of the ball, and socket element of the shoulder girdle complex. This inner tube of tendons is very important but is also prone to injury as the shoulder is very mobile. The commonest type of rotator cuff tenderness involves one of these tendons, called supraspinatus, which is the top of the tendon that make up this tube of tendons. This particular tendon gets inflamed and rubs beneath something called the subacromial arch.

My advice to tennis players to help prevent some of the most common injuries would be to work on their training techniques, maintain flexibility and strength.

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