Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Tennis injuries: how to care and prevent them

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Tennis is recognised as having extensive benefits such as improving a person’s muscle tone and lowering the resting heart rate. Despite this, tennis is among some of the sports which send many athletes to the A&E department. Tennis injuries happen as a result of repetition, the high speed of racquet impact, the predominant use of the tennis player’s spine, legs and dominant arm.

Figures actually show that in 2015 23,609 people with tennis injuries ended up in the emergency room, according to the National Safety Council.

Some of the common symptoms of a tennis injury are:

  • Pain and weakness in the injured area
  • Difficulty lifting or extending the injured limb
  • Snapping and crackling noises when moving the injured limb
  • Worsening back pain

Common causes of tennis injuries

As mentioned earlier, tennis injuries are quite common incidents. Tennis injuries make up around 5 injuries per 1,000 hours of tennis played among athletes. However, most tennis injuries do not require hospitalisation and can be treated with physiotherapy, stretching exercises and rest.

The most common tennis injuries occur in the lower limb. These can be ankle, knee and thigh injuries. The causes of these tennis injuries are sprinting, pivoting or jarring when playing tennis. The upper limb injuries, in the elbow, shoulder or wrist, are caused by the repetitive and high-velocity movements which characterize tennis. Tennis injuries in the back are also caused by movement. In this case, this happens as a cause of the combination of rotation, extension and lateral flexion when serving in tennis.

Common tennis injuries

Ankle sprains are among some of the most common tennis injuries. Ankle sprains are a direct result of the sudden movements in tennis. What happens in a sprain is that a ligament in the ankle is stretched too far. And in some cases it can even lead to tearing.

When a player gets an ankle injury, the most common way of treating this tennis injury is by applying the PRICE method, which stands for protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. With tennis injuries such as these, they typically heal over time. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medicine is recommended. If the sprain is more severe, further medical attention is needed

Rotator cuff injuries can happen gradually or over a period of time. Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common tennis injuries. These tennis injuries happen due to the repetitive movement of swinging a tennis racket over and over. This overuse can cause a tear in the rotator cuff.

Recovery from such a tennis injury normally includes physical therapy exercises which help to improve flexibility and strength of the muscles. Of course, it is recommended that the player stops playing tennis until the pain in the area subsides and continue to recover from the tennis injury with exercises aimed at building shoulder strength and flexibility.

Another very frequent tennis injury is named after the sport itself - tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is a common tennis injury because of the nature of the sport, which involves repetitive actions, such as a lot of gripping.

A typical treatment option for tennis elbow injuries includes lots of rest and icing of the injured area. Tennis players can also be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, if necessary. Tennis players may also be required to wear a brace to help them recover from a tennis elbow injury. A brace will relieve pressure from the injured area and prevent a further injury, while in recovery from the tennis injury.

Preventing tennis injuries

Here are the top 5 tips, which can help to prevent unwanted tennis injuries.

1.Warm up your body

With the right pre-game warm up, the chances of tennis injuries occurring lowers. Proper stretching and strength-building exercises will help prevent tennis injuries, as well as improve flexibility and therefore, the ability to perform well in a tennis game. Tennis specific exercises, which focus on the core and shoulder are advised.

2.Maintain a good technique

There are certain key points about technique, which any professional or aspiring tennis player needs to remember in order to minimise the risk of getting a tennis injury. Firstly, when serving, the back should not be arched very much. Secondly, you can prevent a tennis injury from happening if you balance your upper body weight by bending your knees and raising your heels.

3.Wear the proper equipment

A key consideration for any tennis player, or any sports player in general, is to wear the right equipment, appropriate for the sport. This is the best first step in preventing a tennis injury. A good shoe will help protect your ankle from tennis injuries. Also, tennis socks are great to support the ankles. A crucial factor in preventing injuries is using the right tennis racquet. A racquet with a good grip, suitable size and weight will make your game stronger and prevent you from tennis injuries.

4.Take breaks

It’s essential that a professional tennis player takes occasional breaks from playing tennis. It is usually advised that athletes are away from the game at least 1 month every year. The body needs time to recover and constant use and abuse will only lead to tennis injuries.

5.Hydrate and eat healthy

This last tip is an obvious lifestyle tip, but as essential as any others. In order to fuel your body and have the highest performance rates, you should ensure that you hydrate appropriately each day. A balanced diet will also help an athlete to function at the fullest capacity and help prevent tennis injuries from occurring.

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