Don’t Double Fault: Avoiding Elbow and Shoulder Injuries in Tennis

By Gleneagles Hospital


Photo Credit: Steven Pisano on Flickr

Sporting injury can occur for a number of reasons: over-training, persistently high-intensity participation of sports without sufficient rest, accidents during sports, and incorrect technique.

Tennis elbow occurs very uncommonly in professional players or experienced players. For people who play tennis – this problems occurs mainly because of repetitively played incorrect backhand strokes. In particular, when the backhand is played using much of wrist movement, rather than a single flowing motion of the turning body, together with a properly positioned shoulder and elbow, with the racquet held with a firm wrist – this is when one becomes susceptible to tennis elbow.


Photo Credit: Steven Pisano on Flickr

The diagnosis of tennis elbow is mainly a clinical one. Ultrasound and MRI scans can help to confirm the diagnosis if necessary. When it is mild, rest, icing, painkillers and occasional strapping can be helpful. When recalcitrant, then a steroid injection or shockwave therapy can be considered. Finally, in persistent and painful tennis elbows, we sometimes perform surgery to achieve symptom relief.

Other times, intense training even by professional athletes can lead to injury. This can be exemplified by shoulder and wrist injuries. As the result of the frequent overhead service stroke and smash, tennis players are susceptible to shoulder rotator cuff tendinitis and rotator cuff tears. Similarly, in badminton players, because of the regular use of overhead smashes, the same injury can occur. The other injury sustained in badminton enthusiasts is that of wrist tendinitis, because of the intense and quick wrist movements required during the game. The process of diagnosis and the principles treatment is no different from that in tennis elbow.


Photo Credit: Steven Pisano on Flickr

Knowing this, injury prevention becomes an important issue in active sports men and women. This can be summarized in the following way:

1) Learn the correct techniques and use the right equipment.

2) Warm up properly prior to starting a match, or prior to intense play. This helps to prepare the body for action.

3) Listen to the body. If our bodies start to ache during the game, or we feel severe aching hours after or on the next day, it may mean that there may be inadequate preparation, and we need to build up our body more in preparation to play the sport.

4) In the event of post-sport aches and pains, we can apply cold therapy (like applying an ice pack) to the sore joint or muscle, and may even need to delay further exercise until we feel better. Should the aches and pains persist for more than 2-3 weeks without abating, we should consider consulting an orthopaedic specialist.

 

Dr. Lim Yi-Jia, Orthopaedic Surgeon. Gleneagles Hospital

Dr Lim Yi-Jia is an established Consultant Orthopaedic and Upper Limb surgeon who has experience in General Orthopaedic and Orthopaedic Trauma surgery. Dr Lim has had a special interest in Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist and Hand surgery He performs procedures including arthroscopy, joint replacement, trauma surgery and reconstructive surgery of these regions.

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