Tennis is an immensely popular global sport with more than 200 countries affiliated with the International Tennis Federation. The Australian Sports Commission ERRAS report (2012) indicates there are more than 1.3million active tennis players in Australia and more than 17million in the USA (Outdoor Foundation Report; 2013).
Tennis is a fast moving and often explosive sport that places incredible demands on bodies, particularly the lower limbs. A tennis related injury study conducted by the British Journal Sports Medicine of more than 110 research articles indicated a whopping 31-67% of injuries were to the lower extremity.
While the authors reported the majority of the lower limb injuries were acute this does not discount the general trend in sport that overuse injury is more common. Alas, footwear was not investigated in any of the studies that may have provided solutions to the causes of injury.
The good news is, injury can be minimised or even prevented with the right strategies. Here are some of the common factors associated with tennis and how you can avoid the pitfall
Here’s a breakdown of the most common lower leg injuries.
Too Much Tennis: Over-training in tennis is the #1 cause of injury. Far too often, pro and amateur athletes are exposed to repetitive training loads (x4-5 weekly) producing constant strain on muscles, joints and ligaments. The repetitive nature of pivoting, jumping, swiveling, landing and running on hard surfaces will cause problems with feet, ankles, shins and knees. Over-training causes overload on the body, an inability of muscles to function correctly, fatigue and injury.
Lack of Preparation: Proper preparation including a warm-up and warm-down is a discipline for any sport and should form the basis for protocol in tennis. Risk: Failing to prepare with a warm-up is a major reason for straining soft tissue during a game. Equally important is the warm-down that includes stretching muscles in order to reduce lactic acid. This prevents the risk of muscle strain after playing. Here are some great tennis stretches to prevent injuries.
The Correct Equipment: Obviously the tennis racquet is the most important piece of equipment that is selected based upon size, weight, feel and technical attributes. The second most important piece of equipment is shoes. The same selection principles for racquet apply for shoes. Make sure your shoes are well fitted by a specialty tennis store and if you have any foot-leg injury history have a sports podiatrist recommend a shoe for you.
Shoe Buddy also has a section on the most up-to-date tennis shoes you may want to check out. Remember, you will be on court a minimum of 2-3 sets which may go to 5 sets which is many hours of running, stopping, pivoting that results in extremely high impact forces to feet, ankles, shins, knees and back. The wrong shoe will make your tennis world a misery; the correct shoe a smash hit!
Playing When Injured: It’s amazing how many people think they can play through injury. Beware the use of medication that “masks” the pain of injury. Its important to keep in mind, that most injuries will get better as long as 1) medical advice is followed, 2) a diligent approach to rehabilitation is adhered to, and 3) most importantly, you DO NOT return to training or playing before the injury completely heals. Following this, take it easy upon returning to the game and ensure you do not over-train. Risk: If a tennis player continues to play with an injury they risk further problems and a much longer healing time. Worse, they could cause irreparable damage that will last a lifetime.
*Note: Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhoto.net