Tips for Avoiding Tennis Traumas
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Tennis is a demanding sport that can result in injury. You throw your elbows and shoulders into serves and strokes. You stop and go and pound your legs on hard surfaces instead of clay or grass. You risk more than losing a few games when you get a tennis injury. You could be sidelined from tennis and other sports for months. Luckily, recreational players who do not hit the ball as hard or as often as advanced and elite players have a lower risk of injury. But tennis players are still prone to injury no matter their skill level. Here is what you need to know about common tennis injuries whether you are heading out to your local court or on your way to a pro tour.
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury of the wrist extensor tendons that attach at the outside of the forearm near the elbow. The injury is painful and may sometimes cause swelling. It may also make it hard to move your forearm.
Here are some tips to avoid tennis elbow:
Tennis players have more than just their elbow to worry about. Tennis can often affect several parts of the body.
Shoulder pain is often caused by serving. You can learn serve mechanics from a qualified instructor. This can help you avoid doing any damage to your shoulders. You should also work to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles before you sign up for tennis lessons. A few simple exercises with light weights, cords, or resistance bands will go a long way in helping you protect your shoulders.
Tennis players often have low back pain. Back injury can come from twisting and rotating when trying to hit the ball. Hyperextending the back during a serve can also result in injury. Over time, this can put stress on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the spine. It can also damage discs.
During your serve, make sure you keep your stomach muscle flexed while bending at the knees. Do not arch your back too much during the serve. Proper form will help lower the risk of back injury. Be sure to do exercises that strengthen your core and back so they can support you as you play.
Ankle sprains are common in sports. Ankle ligaments can get injured when you twist or turn your ankle.
The key to avoiding an ankle sprain is to keep the muscles well-balanced, strong, and flexible. Balance exercises can also help. Take some time to warm up before playing tennis. Make sure your play surface is even. It should not have any places where you can trip or twist your ankle. Make sure you have tennis shoes that fit you well. Ankle supports like braces and tape may also help to keep your ankle stable. If you feel pain or fatigue, slow down your pace or stop playing. You should build intensity slowly to prevent overuse injuries.
Hamstring problems are common with most athletes. These muscles need to be flexible and strong. Warm up first with brisk walking or a slow jog. Stretch slowly and gently after you are warmed up. Keep your hamstring muscles strong by doing exercises.
Knee Cartilage Tear
Meniscal tears are common in tennis. It happens when there is torn cartilage in your knee that is causing pain. You can lower your risk of this problem by taking the time to strengthen and stretch the muscles around the knee, such as the quadriceps or hamstrings. Exercises that focus on the hips and knee joint will also help.
Achilles Tendon Injury
Playing tennis could lead to a strain or tear of the Achilles tendon. Good flexibility is the best way you can lower your risk. Always warm up before you start playing. Try to avoid the ball of your foot when you land. Do exercises to stretch the tendon on the days you aren't playing.
General Injury Prevention
The best way to lower your risk in any sport is to be in good condition and to warm up before playing. Take several minutes to raise your heart rate with a slow jog or some jumping jacks. When you are ready, start to slowly stretch your muscles. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Take your time and do not rush.
Start playing slowly by hitting the ball with your opponent. Serve several times until your shoulder feels loose and ready for hard play. Cool down your muscles with more stretching when the match is over.
Good habits start before you hit the court. Make sure you are properly fitted for a racquet. This will lower the risk of wrist and elbow injuries. Support your ankle with the correct athletic shoes and socks.
Take some lessons and learn the proper way to hit a forehand, backhand, or serve. Technique is the most important part of playing tennis and it goes a long way in helping you stay safe.
American Council on Exercise
American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Ankle sprain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ankle-sprain. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Lateral elbow tendinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lateral-elbow-tendinopathy. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Sprained ankle. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/sprained-ankle. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Tennis and back pain. Spine Health website. Available at:
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Accessed October 13, 2021.
Tennis injury prevention. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/tennis-injury-prevention. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/13/2021
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