Injury of the month: Tennis Elbow

With working for many years in the professional tennis environment and also seeing the recreational club players, the summer always brings to the fore an increase in injury occurrence. Tennis injuries are not uncommon in the recreational player and at this time of the year these injuries become more frequent as we increase our hours on court. Tennis players suffer from injuries such as low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain and also trauma injuries such as ligament sprains and muscle tears. One injury commonly known is Tennis Elbow that is prevalent in the recreational player.

Tennis Elbow

What it Is?

Tennis Elbow is an injury caused by overloading the forearm extensor muscles. Over time the tendon goes through different pathological stages and becomes what is known as a tendinopathy and not a tendinitis due to there not being an inflammatory injury. The extensor tendon, through the repeated trauma is unable to heal appropriately thus can become degenerative and can last for longer periods than a muscle strain. Tennis Elbow or Extensor Tendinopathy is not just related to tennis but many individuals can suffer from this injury.

Tennis elbow is not common in professional Tennis players but arises mostly in the recreational and club player. The occurrence has been observed to occur in up to 53 out of 100 recreational adult players in the USTA with an average age of 46 years. The rarity in professional tennis is seen in one study undertaken at the French Open over a three year period with only one reported case of tennis elbow in more than 700 professional players.

Why does it occur?

Simply, this is caused from too much load on a tissue that cannot cope with the stress applied. In tennis the prevalence of injury rate indicates that it more related to factors such as: incorrect grip size, change of racket weight or string tension, hitting the ball too late and/or with poor technique or a lack of strength in the forearm muscles.

How to prevent it?

  1. Warm up properly: This should consist of dynamic movement that replicate tennis such as walking lunges, squats, rotating the spine and for the upper body using a Theraband. Remember in tennis if you don’t move your feet you can’t get in position to hit the ball at the correct height.
  2. Gym work: To play tennis we need to have a base level of fitness and this can be improved by work away from the court. Undergoing an upper body and core forearm resistance plan will pay dividends in reducing injury occurrence and also benefit your game.
  3. Equipment: Your racket should be appropriate for you regarding grip size and and how you like to play the game. Speak to your coach so you can discuss this and they can advise you with the correct racket weight, string tension and to check your grip size.

If you’re having any problems with your elbow or anything else, do call us to book an appointment on 02030 12 12 22.

Words by Stuart Mailer.

Sarah Lawson

Sarah had wanted to be a physiotherapist from the age of 15, and she realised her dream after qualifying in 1992. She went on to gain a postgraduate qualification in Sport Medicine in 1997, and later became the Outpatient and Sports Injury Manager at the Wellington Hospital. 

When she found herself spending more time on paperwork than patients (her clinic at the Wellington was owned by an American corporation), she went into private practice – first helping a small physio clinic get back on its feet, and then setting up Physio Remedies in 2005. 

Physio Remedies has come on a long way since its inception (which consisted of just Sarah on her own, in a converted broom cupboard at the Lansdowne Club): with top physios from around the country, state-of-the-art facilities, and relationships with renowned surgeons and sports organisations, it’s one of the most highly regarded physio practices in the country.