Avoid Common Tennis Injuries
Kenneth Anderson, D.O., Family and Sports Medicine Physician
Anderson Medical Center in San Diego (Pacific Beach), California
In beautiful Southern California, the beckoning call of the tennis court is a year-round affair, which is so very tempting for many of us. Tennis is a fantastic sport with numerous health benefits. It is a full-body workout which increases heart and lung (aerobic) capacity, and it decreases the resting heart rate and blood pressure. Playing tennis also improves muscle tone, strength, endurance, flexibility of the skeletal body, and bone density. Mental acuity and overall mood are heightened and improved by vigorous play on the courts in the beautiful outdoors.
Tennis leagues are forming now, and according to multiple sources, tennis ranks about sixth in popularity in the United States. It is one of my favorite sports, and I enjoy providing medical care to all players from beginning to professional levels as a sports medicine physician in my primary care practice and at various professional tournaments throughout California.
COMMON TENNIS INJURIES:
As a sports medicine physician, I see a large number of tennis related injuries in my practice. The most common injuries in tennis are:
Ankle Sprains: Overstretching of ankle ligaments, which can vary in severity from a mild sprain from twisting or rolling the ankle to severe complete ligament ruptures.
Shoulder Injuries: The structural element most affected is the rotator cuff which provides stability and mobility to the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries can be caused by overuse on overheads and serves. Tears can occur with continued overuse or acutely.
Patellar Tendonitis: Another overuse injury affecting the patella tendon of the knee joint is patellar tendonitis caused during jumping and landing activities.
Tennis Elbow: Repetitive use of the muscles that extend the wrists or bend it backwards creates inflammation of the tendons joining the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. Impact of the tennis ball to the racquet participates in the creation of tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis. This may be affected by different strings, tension of strings, rackets, and poor stroke mechanics. Using old tennis balls may also aggravate this.
Low Back Strain: This is frequently due to tight hamstrings.
PREVENTION IS KEY:
Prevention is key to a successful spring and summer (or more) of enjoyable tennis. Overall, there are five very important factors that all tennis enthusiasts should consider. 1) Proper strengthening of the supporting muscles used in tennis should be added to your regular fitness regimen. 2) Warming up the large muscle groups and stretching exercises (and in that order) prior to training, practice, or a match can decrease the probability of injury. Short court is one example of this. 3) The importance of body mechanics – your form – and utilizing proper technique cannot be overlooked. 4) Sometimes, our fitness levels decrease over the winter months, particularly coming out of the rainy season recently experienced in Southern California, and injuries can easily occur by increasing the intensity and duration on the court too quickly. Be sure to gradually increase your training time, taking care not to allow your muscles to fatigue significantly, will help to decrease the occurrence of strains, sprains and stress fractures. 5) Taking appropriate breaks for rest and water are crucial to provide adequate muscle recovery. Proper hydration will help prevent strains.
DEALING WITH AN INJURY:
If you experience an injury, I recommend:
REST. Discontinue the activity immediately. “No pain, no gain” is not a theory to hold near and dear to your heart. It is best not to do anything to reproduce the pain associated with the injury.
ICE. For the first few days after the acute injury, apply ice for 10-minute cycles which helps to reduce pain and swelling in injuries involving soft tissue, such as bruising, muscle tears, or sprains.
COMPRESSION. A simple elastic wrap or compressive bandage should be applied in most cases, which will help to control bleeding and swelling during the first few days.
ELEVATION. While resting an injury of an arm or leg, elevating it at the same time, keeping it comfortably rested above the heart, will also assist in the overall decrease of pain and swelling.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE:
Many overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, develop over time and symptoms can be subtle. Delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to more serious injuries. It is time to seek medical attention when symptoms do not go away after rest and home care. Any condition that affects training and performance should been seen by a qualified physician. Medical care should be sought when there is an increase in pain, swelling, mobility, and/or discomfort.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kenneth L. Anderson, III, D.O., is an osteopathically trained medical doctor who is board certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine, with expertise in spinal adjustments.
In addition to being an avid tennis player, Dr. Anderson serves as a tournament physician for the BNP Paribas Open and the team physician for the San Diego Aviators. He was previously the tournament physician for the La Costa and Carlsbad Open WTA tournaments. Dr. Anderson has also served as a team physician for U.S. Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.
He has been the Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer of Anderson Medical Center since October 2011, and Dr. Anderson has served as team physician for multiple professional sports teams, including but not limited to, the San Diego Chargers and the San Diego Gulls. His experience in sports medicine extends through the ranks from professional athletes to the little leaguer.
Anderson Medical Center is a primary care, sports medicine, occupational medicine practice and urgent care housed in a state-of-the-art facility located in the Pacific Beach community of San Diego. The mission of our team at Anderson Medical Center is to: “treat all patients as we would want our family members to be treated.”
Anderson Medical Center is located at 1945 Garnet Avenue, San Diego, 92109. You may reach us at 858.224.7977. Walk-ins are welcome – no appointment is necessary or you may make a reservation online at www.andersonmedicalcenter.com