Tennis is a high impact sport that puts our bodies under enormous stress on a daily basis. It is also very one-sided which can cause tension around joints that are very important for effective movement. Three of the most common injuries that tennis players incur are found in the shoulder, elbow and knee.
Tennis can put a large amount of strain on the shoulder joint. A common imbalance amongst tennis players is to have very protracted shoulders (rounded shoulders) due to the nature of the sport. Most players will more often than not be moving their shoulders forward while they are training and playing matches, when hitting forehands, double handed backhands and serves. The shoulder is therefore rarely being moved backwards into a neutral position. Having this imbalance alters the mechanics of the shoulder and can lead to rotator cuff problems and tendonitis.
Due to these factors, it is very important for players to compensate for the shoulder movements during tennis play. Here are 3 of the best exercises to help counteract this imbalance:
This is a simple pectoral stretch, these muscles get extremely tight from playing tennis and pull the shoulder girdle forward. When doing this stretch you should feel it through your chest, if you feel an intense burn in the front of your shoulder adjust the position of your arm until you feel the stretch through your chest.
This is a theraband row, used to strengthen the muscles of your upper back. When performing this exercise make sure you squeeze your shoulder blades back and down. 3 sets of 10-15 reps will do the trick.
This exercise is to engage and strengthen the posterior rotator cuff muscles. As you can see in the pictures there it is not a big movement, this is all that is needed as the muscle group being targeted is very small and easily over worked. 3 sets of 10 with a low resistance band.
Due to the repetitive nature of tennis, overuse injuries are incredibly common. An overuse injury that is seen a lot in tennis is lateral epicondylitis also known as tennis elbow. This occurs when the tendons of the wrist extensor muscles at the outside of the elbow become inflamed.
Tips to avoid getting tennis elbow
- Clean up your tennis technique; poor technique is often a contributing factor to developing tension and causing inflammation in the forearm muscles. To avoid this it is best to seek advice from a qualified coach that will be able to check and correct any faults in technique.
- Having adequate rest; as tennis elbow is commonly an over use injury it is important that the muscles in the forearm get time to recover and heal from training. It is also important to be aware that other activities may put strain on the same muscle group such as going to the gym and typing on a computer.
- Stretching; the wrist extensor muscles must be stretched back to their normal length after training. However these muscles can be challenging to stretch. (A common tennis elbow stretch is shown below).
Treatment for tennis elbow
The type of treatment needed will depend on the severity of the injury. In the most extreme cases surgery is needed but this is usually the last resort as there is a lot that can be done before hand:
- Physical/manual therapy; hands on treatment from a physio, osteopath, chiropractor or sports therapist will be able to loosen the effected muscles and take the strain off the tendons.
- Acupuncture; this form of treatment can also be an effective cure for tennis elbow as long as you haven’t got a needle phobia!
- Tennis elbow supports; wearing supports can take the pressure of the effected muscles, therefore easing the pain. These can usually be bought over the counter in a boots or easily found on the internet.
- Hold your arm straight out in front of you
- Flex your wrist so your fingers are pointing towards the floor
- Place your opposite hand under the one you are stretching and place gentle pressure by pushing your hand back towards yourself, make sure you keep your shoulders relaxed throughout
- Hold it for 30-60 seconds and repeat three times
It is very common for tennis players to develop anterior knee pain around the patella tendon. Tennis involves so many different body motions; running, starting, stopping, changing directions, sliding, jumping, and just about every other motion possible. So much of the pain can be from over use and tightening of the quad muscles. Another cause of the pain can be a stability issue in the athlete, where the ligaments, tendons and muscles are not strong enough in knee area.
Here are 3 of the best exercises that can help to prevent knee pain:
A very simple quad stretch, you would be surprised how much difference this can make a lot of the time. Lie flat on a mat on your front side, bend one knee and grab onto your ankle, pull your ankle towards your back side as far as possible. Hold each leg for at least 30 seconds and do it 2 to 3 times for good results.
This is an exercise that helps to engage your inner quad, which is a muscle that is commonly underdeveloped and can lead to patella tracking issues that can cause a lot of discomfort and inflammation of the knee. Place a loop theraband around your knee and a table leg or something similar. Start with your knee bent but keep your heal on the ground, the theraband should be a bit looser when in the bent knee position, straighten your leg, pulling the theraband tight. Complete 3 sets of 10.
Alignments in your knee are largely controlled by the muscles around your hips, especially your glutes. This exercise is called the clam and is great for targeting your key muscles that will prevent your knees from collapsing inwards. Lie on a mat on your side, bend your knees, lift your top leg away from your bottom leg making sure your keep your feet together and your bottom leg stays on the ground. Completing 3 sets of 10 will be a good start to this exercise. Putting a loop theraband around both of your legs at the knee will add more resistance and will be the next step once initial strength is developed.
Tennis is a great sport with so many benefits for health and wellbeing. However it can also cause serious injuries problems if players do not look after themselves. On court training and playing matches are only a couple aspects that players must consider in their development .Being able to recover your body and reduce injuries is of utmost importance for longevity and success in the sport. If your a good player but can never be fit enough to play you will always struggle to fulfil your potential!