A literature review published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has looked at tennis injuries in detail, finding the most common injuries and discussing ways that recreational and professional players can limit injury risks.
Tennis places considerable loads on the joints of players, particularly on the shoulder and elbow joints, increasing the risk of an injury developing. Meanwhile, sudden stops and shifts in motion can lead to acute injuries of the lower body.
“Acute [sudden, sharp onset] injuries occur more frequently and often affect the lower extremity. Chronic injuries also occur, but these tend to commonly affect the upper extremity,” explained orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Joshua S. Dines, lead study author.
The review showed that common upper extremity conditions include rotator cuff injury, internal impingement, superior labral tears and epicondylitis of the elbow.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is thought to affect recreational players more than it does professionals because of differences in the way they hit backhand strokes. Specifically, recreational players tend to hit backhand strokes with their wrists in a more flexed position, whereas professional players are more likely to increase wrist extension – raising the back of the hand – just before contact with the ball.
Professional tennis players tend to injure the inner side of the elbow. This results from excessive wrist snap on serve and forehand strokes, open-stance hitting and short-arming strokes, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported.
Recommended exercises include squats, which strengthen the legs to enable them to generate power and absorb loads better; trunk rotations; and stabilisation exercises for the shoulders and wrists.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also offers three specific pieces of advice that could help tennis players prevent injury:
• Hit the ball at the centre of the three racquet “sweet spots” to minimise loads on the wrist and arm and reduce vibrations.
• Reduced grip forces also decrease the vibration load on the arm and help minimise the chances that tennis elbow will develop.
• A multidisciplinary approach that involves bracing along with proprioceptive training and muscle recruitment evaluation can be effective in preventing ankle sprains.