There is nothing like injury to get in the way of your goals as a sports enthusiast, whether you are Nadal trying to win the Australian Open, or just a social player enjoying a weekly match.
So what does the research say about tennis injuries and what can we learn from it?
Recent research has looked into injury trends from data collected from the US Open between 1994 and 2009 . The most common injuries were in the ankle, wrist, knee, foot, and shoulder. Muscle and tendon damage was the most common type of injury. The “gradual-onset” injury was less common than the acute (sudden) injury. Injuries to the trunk made up 15% of all the acute injuries. The overall incidence of lower back injuries was 2.3 per 1000 matches.
This data is applicable to any tennis player, but we also should look at our own local factors and conditions. After speaking with Bob Gasston, club manager at the Bourne Club in Farnham, it seems that the extremely wet weather we have been experiencing has been making the balls much heavier, increasing the incidence of arm injuries while a change to the surface conditions of wet courts makes lower leg injuries more of a factor.
So why do these injuries happen and what can you do to help minimise your risk?
An injury takes place when a structure in the body is pushed past its limits and is either crushed or torn. Even though the acute type of injury is the most common there will still be a slow build up of factors which will set the scene for the injury, most of this being due to long-term compensation.
Compensation happens because there is a part of the body that is not doing its job, shifting the stress elsewhere. This can be from an area of decreased mobility shifting the demand to another area. I experienced this first hand with a chronic lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). Months of physio and chiropractic was ineffective until a chiropractor found that my forearm bones where not gliding properly. This was causing extra work to be placed on the elbow. Within a few sessions it all cleared up and has never returned. Find the cause and the symptoms resolve.
How do we find out where the “cause” is coming from? Testing if there are any muscles which are not working as well as they should be is a great insight. You see, a weak muscle in any chain will cause other muscles to overwork to make up for the deficiency.
Assessing joint mobility is also essential as stuck joints cause problems - they need to be found and fixed to avoid injury.
Grant Pretorius, M.Chiro (RSA)
Doctor of Chiropractic
P.S. A great addition to your warm-up routine is to roll a tennis ball under your bare foot. Massage the tender spots for around 10 seconds and do a general foot massage. This will improve your foot mobility and sensory feedback which in turn will reduce your injury risk. Essential for soggy courts!
1. Sell K, Hainline B, Yorio M et al. Injury trend analysis from the US Open Tennis Championships between 1994 and 2009. BJSM 2012 Aug 25 [Epub ahead of print].