Male tennis player holding racket and ball

5 Common Tennis Injuries & How to Treat Them

Categories: Sports Medicine

With spring finally here, many people are eager to start engaging in their favorite activities. Boating, jogging and golfing are all great sources of exercise, but carry their fair share of risks. While tennis is a leisurely way to spend a quiet Sunday morning, improper technique may lead to injury. As an orthopedics office with doctors specializing in sports medicine, we are equipped to treat these tennis injuries. Read on to learn more about potential tennis injuries, and how you can prevent them.


5 Common Tennis Injuries

Sports injuries can fall into one of two categories: acute and chronic.

Acute injuries result from a singular incident. It may be a strain or sprain. This injury may stem from a fall, a collision, or simply contorting the body into an unnatural position. Acute injuries generally lead to sudden pain in the affected area.

Chronic injuries, on the other hand, are built up over time. These injuries result from continual improper use, or simply from overuse of a certain body part. Often, symptoms include swelling and lasting pain.


1. Tennis Elbow

The Injury

Also a common golf injury, tennis elbow occurs when tennis players bend and flex their elbows quickly and often. It causes inflammation in the tendons that connect the muscle of the forearm to the elbow. Unlike golf elbow, which occurs on the inside, tennis elbow becomes inflamed on the inside. Sometimes called lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow results primarily from overuse, making it a chronic sports injury.

With tennis elbow, you may experience pain or burning on the outside of the elbow, along with a weakened grip. Generally, the forearms are also much weaker.

The Treatment

The goal of nonsurgical tennis elbow treatment is allowing the tendon to heal. Physical and occupational therapy are crucial to sports medicine, especially for tennis elbow patients. Learning to rest the elbow in a pain-free position will also mitigate pain.

If this sports medicine approach is ineffective, then surgery may be the next step. Tendon debridement and release procedures will reduce symptoms and treat the condition.


2. Torn Rotator Cuff

The Injury

Because the shoulder is central to the operation of the arm, it can often be worn down to begin with. As you maneuver your shoulders during tennis practices and matches, your rotator cuff will naturally wear away even more. So, a torn rotator cuff could be a chronic injury resulting from long-term overuse. However, it can also be an acute injury triggered by sudden stress.

With a torn rotator cuff, patients will feel extremely weak in the shoulder. It may also bring on tender feelings, as well as difficulty maneuvering the arms.

The Treatment

In order to diagnose a torn rotator cuff, the sports medicine specialist will usually assess the demonstrated range of motion.

Like other injuries, the first possible recourse for a torn rotator cuff is physical or occupational therapy. These treatments will be oriented toward rebuilding strength and muscle. Cortisone injections will reduce inflammation as well. In order to regain strength, the sports medicine specialist will also recommend several exercises.

When nonsurgical techniques are not sufficient, arthroscopic repair is the next potential treatment option. Using a small camera, surgeons can examine the affected area. Then, using extremely small instruments, the surgeon can effectively make small incisions, without impacting the entire area.


3. Achilles Tendon Rupture

The Injury

Connecting the heel and the calf muscle, the Achilles tendon allows people to perform high-energy activities. So, it is crucial to the jumping and leaping involved in reaching the tennis ball during games. This injury becomes more likely with chronic overuse and inflammation. But, the Achilles tendon rupture itself will be very clear, with a loud snap, requiring a sports medicine professional.

However, this injury is especially dangerous for players who suddenly launch into a frequent tennis routine. After months of relative inactivity, resuming a previous workout habit without the proper conditioning can be disastrous.

Pain from an Achilles tendon rupture is generally located above the heel.

The Treatment

A surgical procedure, in which a sports medicine surgeon would reattach the two tendons, is the most effective treatment. And, while casting is a common non-surgical technique, patients who take this route tend to re-rupture their tendons. Modern advances in medicine have minimized the size of the surgical incision.


4. Tennis Knee: Patellar Tendonitis

The Injury

Sometimes called jumper’s knee, patellar tendonitis can affect tennis players. While jumping and landing repetitively, it’s common for tennis players to place immense stress on the knee. Landing on especially rough surfaces (such as cement) and taking your activity to the extreme can contribute to this injury. Repeatedly rising from a crouched position to an upright position may contribute as well.

Pain and swelling generally develop right below the knee.

The Treatment

Sports medicine specialists can detect patellar tendonitis based on inflammation and tenderness, and range of motion in the knee. The first step in the treatment process is reducing the inflammation within the knee. Adapting a generally restful lifestyle, along with keeping the injury immobilized and elevated, will both lead to a faster recovery. Light stretching exercises will help patients to rebuild muscles and overall strength. These flexibility exercises will also help you gradually resume more intense activities. Sports medicine specialists can educate patients who have experienced one injury about preventing future injuries.

Thanks to preventative measures, patients rarely require surgery. Arthroscopic surgery techniques help patients recover by replenishing blood.


5. Stress Fractures in the Back

The Injury

Serving can wreak havoc on the spine. Hyperextending the back and bending to the side puts tremendous stress on the lower back. With enough repetition, this may result in spondylolisthesis, meaning that the vertebra shifts forward, or spondylolysis, where the pars interarticularis separates. Overall, this means that the vertebra is no longer held firmly in place. For sports medicine specialists, this condition is treatable.

Continuing this physical activity results in increased stress, while rest can generally ease pain. Most patients will also feel pain or stiffness in the center of the back, or in the legs.

The Treatment

Nonsurgical approaches to treating these stress fractures focus on immobilizing the spine. So, back braces and casts are both common options. While maintaining some level of light activity is crucial, most sports medicine specialists will advise against lifting. This will reduce the chances of inflammation. Physical therapy can also help stress fracture patients.

When nonsurgical techniques are ineffective, minimally invasive spine surgery will fully heal the injury. Because a sedentary lifestyle can also be harmful, you should take measures to prevent spine injuries at work. Other lifestyle practices will also aid in limiting back pain.