Tennis Injuries from Overuse
Overuse Injuries occur as a result of stress on the muscles, joints, and soft tissues over time. These injuries most often occur in older adults as their bodies begin to feel the wear-and-tear of age or among athletes who haven't given past injuries enough time to heal. These injuries begin a small, nagging pain but can grow into serious injuries if they aren't properly treated early on. Approximately two-thirds of all tennis injuries are overuse injuries while the other one-third is due to a traumatic injury or an acute event.
The most common overuse injury is "Tennis Elbow," also called lateral epicondylitis, a condition that affects tennis players due to the constant strain on the elbow joint and the overuse of the tendons and muscles around the joint. Symptoms include minor and localized pain in the joint and restricted movement in the wrist. The pain may increase when the fingers are fully straightened or the wrist is bent backwards. Many players find themselves with tennis elbow after practicing and playing with poor technique, including using wet balls or racquet strings that are too tight. In order to avoid Tennis Elbow and other overuse injuries having to do with the forearm, players should work to strengthen the muscle and the muscles surrounding it. This, along with proper warm-ups, will help to decrease injury to this area. Additionally, making sure that you are using proper gear, including a properly sized racquet and grip along with new tennis balls will help to prevent this condition.
Another common injury is called Frozen Shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, an inflammatory condition that cause a limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Tennis players may find that in the case of certain injuries or overuse of the joint, the shoulder becomes tight, stiff, and painful (especially in the evening). Pain from this injury is usually associated with overhead motions such as serving. Another very common shoulder injury to be aware of if you believe you have an overuse shoulder injury due to tennis is Rotator Cuff Tendonitis. Generally speaking, shoulder overuse injuries are usually due to poor conditions and strength of the rotator cuff muscles. This muscle helps to make sure that the shoulder joint rotates properly and when it is fatigued or weakened by lack of conditioning, a player may find that there is increase "play" in the joint, which can irritate the surrounding muscles and cause the inflammation.
Nearly twenty percent of junior tennis players suffer from stress fractures at some point in their play (compare this to only 7.5 percent of professional tennis players who experience the same injuries). Stress fractures are the result of unconditioned or under-conditioned players training too rapidly. Especially when starting a new sport or physical activity the muscles become tired and worn out. If you continue to push yourself without giving your muscles time to gain their strength back, this can cause the additional stress to be applied directly on to the bones. If this occurs quickly and in rapid succession, it can cause the bones to break. These tiny breaks are more like small cracks in the bone and not like a serious displacement of the bone (as you might see when someone falls and lands on an arm which can "snap."). Most stress fractures occur in the leg or in the foot. It is important to remember that these injuries are very preventable given enough time to properly condition before training intensively.