The fantastic rivalry between the world’s top players has propelled the sport to high levels of popularity. But it’s little wonder the elite players are prone to injury when you consider the speed, power and stamina required of them to play a match.
But injuries aren’t the preserve of top sportsman. Amateurs and recreational players are just as prone to problems, perhaps even more so if they dip in and out of the sport without retaining a certain level of fitness. Knowing what some of the most common injuries are and why they occur can be the best way to avoid them:
Because of the quick movement around the court when players are chasing down a ball, there’s always a risk of rupturing the Achilles tendon. It usually happens because of a strong contraction of the calf muscle that stretches the tendon to the point of tearing or breaking. Players may hear a loud popping noise at the time their tendon ruptures. A previous injury might have weakened the tendon but not warming up properly and exercising in cold weather could also add to the risk of injury.
If a player does suffer a ruptured Achilles, it’s important it is diagnosed properly immediately to avoid further complications. In one case a woman was awarded £20,000 compensation after a minor injuries unit failed to diagnose a ruptured Achilles.
Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the muscles and tendons of the forearm where they attach to the upper arm. It’s caused by prolonged periods of gripping something, like a tennis racquet. Playing with a racquet that isn’t the right size for you can increase the risk of suffering tennis elbow, which can be incredibly painful. If the racquet is too small, it can cause you to grip too hard, so it’s important to be fitted correctly. If you haven’t played for a while, it’s a good idea to take regular breaks to stretch your muscles out and shake your wrist. If you’ve suffered previously, then a compression strap might also help.
Everyone who is anyone in the tennis world has suffered a sprained ankle. Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Andrew Murray have all sprained their ankles during matches. Because players need to make sudden movements, that can cause the ankle to twist. If the player is tired or the court is slippery, the risk is exacerbated. When the ankle twists, it causes damage to the ligaments and soft tissue, leading to an incredibly painful swollen ankle. An ankle brace could help to reduce any risk but if you do sprain your ankle, then rest, an ice pack and keeping your leg up can help bring the swelling down.
Stress fracture of the back
British player Evan Hoyt, 19, has suffered a recurring stress injury to his back. It’s an injury that’s particularly common in young tennis players. Players usually notice an ache in their lower back which comes on when playing sport and eases during times of rest. The serving motion in tennis is most likely to cause a stress fracture because players must bend backwards and sidewards while rotating. In most cases, the only treatment is complete rest to allow the bone to heal.
Rotator cuff injuries
There are lots of reasons tennis players might suffer shoulder pain, but one of the most common causes is overuse of the rotator cuff muscles, which sit next to the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder. This can lead to shoulder bursitis, where a sac of fluid called the bursa can get caught between muscle and bone, causing inflammation and pain whenever you raise your arm. Thankfully, sufferers usually make a full recovery.
While there are risks of injury involved in any sport, the gain in fitness and enjoyment far outweighs them and by arming yourself with information, you can try to make sure your tennis matches are injury free.