Tennis player getting ready to serve the ball

Your Health | 10 days ago

Don’t Miss a Match: How to Prevent and Treat Common Tennis Injuries

Tennis is a great lifetime sport for people of all ages. And while you may not be training for the U.S. Open Tennis Championship (or if you are, these tips are even more important!), be sure to follow these recommendations from Catherine Rainbow, MD, a sports medicine physician with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute and team physician for Winthrop University, to help prevent tennis injuries.

Dr. Catherine RainbowDon’t be fooled: As safe as tennis may seem, it can be a very strenuous sport that poses a high risk of injury. So, although players may not be tackling each other to the ground or using forceful physical aggression against one another (we’re looking at you, hockey players!), injuries  including tennis elbow or a torn rotator cuff  are especially common without following the appropriate safety measures.

Luckily, we’re here to help so you can prevent tennis injuries and safely play the sport you love. As a NCAA Division 1 tennis player at Davidson College Catherine Rainbow, MD, a sports medicine physician with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute, knows a little something about tennis. She is also the team physician for Winthrop University and shares answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about tennis injuries and shares helpful tips for athletes of all skill levels:    

Q1: What are the most common types of injuries in tennis?

A1 | Dr. Rainbow:

The most common types of injuries seen are overuse injuries from poor form hitting the ball, such as tennis elbow, labrum (ring of cartilage) and rotator cuff injuries as well as back pain.

Sometimes trauma can happen from the quick ballistic and pivoting movements such as tennis leg which is a calf muscle strain or a meniscus tear in the knee. Ankle sprains are also common traumatic injuries in tennis.

Q2: What are common treatments?

A2 | Dr. Rainbow:

Making sure that you have proper form when you are hitting all of your strokes can prevent a majority of these injuries. Seeking assistance of a tennis pro can help with proper form.

Including a warm up before the quick ballistic movements, such as a jump or stroke, will also help reduce your risk of injury.

Rest, physical therapy and sometimes steroid injections can help relieve pain from an overuse injury.

Q3: When should you see a doctor?

A3 | Dr. Rainbow:

If you have an acute injury (an injury that happens suddenly) with moderate to severe pain, swelling, bruising and limping, then I would suggest that you see a health care provider. If an overuse injury does not improve with an evaluation of your tennis form by a tennis professional or causes pain throughout the day and night then I would recommend an evaluation with a health care provider. If simple stretching, icing, anti-inflammatory medication and rest does not improve the condition in a few days, then I would also suggest a consultation with a sports medicine provider.

Q4: Are there any strengthening or conditioning that can be done to prevent injuries?

A4 | Dr. Rainbow:

Yes, there are plenty of exercises that can be done to work on gradually strengthening the core of the body as well as of the extremities. Please consult a sports medicine provider for specific exercises to your condition or . 

Q5: How can you recover from an injury if you do have one?

A5 | Dr. Rainbow:

Listen to your body and try to avoid activities and movements that cause pain over a five in 10 in severity. Try to rest, potentially manage inflammation with anti-inflammatory medications temporarily, seek out home exercises or physical therapy for rehabilitation and consider a sports medicine provider’s evaluation depending on the severity of the injury.

Q6: How can tennis players make sure they stay fit and healthy?

A6 | Dr. Rainbow:

Cross training with other athletic activities such as weightlifting can really help prevent overuse injuries. Managing your tennis schedule with rest and good nutrition can also help prevent injuries.

Q7: How else should tennis players prepare before setting foot on the tennis court?

A7 | Dr. Rainbow:

  • It is important to prepare for the weather. Wearing compression socks could help prevent calf injuries by keeping the muscles warm in colder weather.
  • If lightning strikes nearby, seek out shelter immediately.
  • If it is hot and humid, make sure that you are well hydrated before the match and continue to hydrate during the game.
  • If the game is going over an hour, then use electrolyte replacement drinks with some carbohydrates and not just water.
  • A good warm up is always a good way to try to prevent injuries.