Things are heating up on the professional tennis circuit as the summer approaches. We roll into Roland Garros this week for the French Open, followed by other major tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Open. While you may not be playing along side the likes of Williams or Nadal, the season, along with the beautiful weather we’re experiencing in Greater Vancouver, has local tennis enthusiasts enthused to get out on the court to serve, swing, and backhand until their hearts are content. However, as any player of any caliber knows, one pinch, strain, or tear can end your season faster than a Sam Groth serve (in his prime). In order to keep the threat of a summer without tennis on the sidelines, we are are providing you with some insight into how physiotherapy will help you repair and prevent injury.
5 Reasons Why Tennis Players of All Skill Levels Will Benefit from Physiotherapy
1. Putting an End to Tennis Elbow
Without a doubt, the first thing that you think of when connecting physiotherapy to tennis is the infamous tennis elbow, and you should. What is this most common of tennis related injuries? Interestingly enough, tennis elbow (aka Lateral Epicondylalgia) is not just confined to those who play the game, as it is the result of common overuse of the elbow. It typically involves injury to an extensor muscle of the forearm, which is the muscle that runs from the top of your wrist to the outside of your elbow. While the injury can commonly occur with any repetitive action of the wrist, including activities such as heavy lifting or frequent use of a mouse-navigated computer, tennis is indeed another major precursor. In tennis, you rotate the forearm palm up to palm down, and grip tightly, which is a repeated sequence that tasks your elbow significantly.
Symptoms of tennis elbow include (but are not exclusive to) tenderness on the outside of the elbow, a weak and/or painful grip, and pain with wrist and third finger extension. You can see how this will make your time on the court quite difficult, if not debilitating. Thankfully, physiotherapy can be applied to tennis elbow, with in-clinic treatments that include (but are not exclusive to) manual therapy and modalities, in addition to the designation of home exercise programs that focus specifically on eccentric exercise of the wrist extensors. Learn more about what physiotherapy can do to help alleviate tennis elbow.
2. The Other (and often neglected) Tennis Injuries
While tennis elbow gets all of the press, there are many more injuries that can occur when playing the game. Think about it, your whole body is being put to task. From foot to hip, all of your lower extremities are being worked while running, twisting, and turning on the court. Then there is your upper body, which is being heavily tested too.
Descriptive epidemiological studies of tennis injuries have found that injuries occur most frequently in the lower extremity. The most common lower extremity injuries in tennis include the following:
- Patella tendonopathy
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain
- Calf strain
- Sprained ankle
Physiotherapy services such as manual therapy, electrotherapy and modalities, laser therapy, and so much more can be applied to effectively treat all of the above, even when severe cases may require ongoing treatment. One needs to look no further than 10-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal who manages a VERY successful tennis career while living with knee tendonitis. Rafael credits his physio regime (and coaching) for much of his post-injury success.
Tennis elbow aside, upper extremity tennis injuries are most commonly characterized as overuse injuries of the shoulder although the whole upper body is at risk for injury. The most common trunk, torso, and upper extremity injuries include the following:
Like with lower extremity rehabilitation, many of the same physiotherapy disciplines can be applied to repair and rehabilitate your upper body injuries to make sure you return to the court sooner rather than later. In addition, chiropractic therapy is a highly effective means to treat tennis-driven lower back pain.
3. Prevention of All Common Tennis Injuries
It’s one thing to have a place to turn when you have suffered an injury, but wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the necessity of it in the first place?
A recent study of professional tennis competitions found that over half of men’s and women’s departures from competition are attributed to injury. While you may not be competing in an official capacity at your local club, you are still going head to head with those on the other side of the net, and have no intention of letting them take the win. In order for you to claim your rightful singles and/or doubles victories, you need to keep playing, and that means keeping free from injury.
Regularly schedule visits with a sports physiotherapist will provide you with access to valuable information about athletic taping and enhanced body function awareness, in addition to in-clinic core exercise training that will assist in keeping you injury free when playing tennis.
4. Custom Orthotics for Better Footwork
By now, you probably know how important custom orthotics can be in both pain management and prevention, and not just in the lower extremity. However, orthotics can be taken a step further (pun intended) when it comes to playing tennis.
An orthotic for tennis shoes needs to be as equally specific as the ones for your day to day activities and other sports. The biomechanics of tennis court play are different from those of sports such as soccer, hockey, running, lacrosse, or golf (etc.), although it is more closely related to the needs of a basketball player. Agility and quick feet are an asset to you as a tennis player, as success in the sport relies upon short, quick bursts of motion in forwards, sideways and even backwards directions. You are required to rely on single leg strength, which often has to stop, balance, and shift your body weight and momentum from one leg to another. If you’re serious about upping your game, then physiotherapist prescribed custom orthotics for the tennis court are essential.
5. Better Overall Performance on the Court
Those snobs at the local tennis club better watch out, because after making physiotherapy a part of your normal health and wellness regime, your game will be elevated beyond your (and their) expectations. It’s not just about injury treatment/therapy and prevention. A physiotherapy clinic that has experience in working with athletes will also address biomechanic faults, performance issues, and opportunities, as they apply to your body movements and how to best apply them to the various acts required in a tennis match.
Ongoing physio may not just leave you pain free, it will provide you with a new sense of self-awareness when it comes to your unique biomechanics. You will begin to better trust your skills and react on the court without worry, doubt, or fear about results, injury included. And that our friends, is what is known as the “ZONE”. Physiotherapy can help get you there.
There is still plenty of time to put physiotherapy to work for you as we make our way through the summer tennis season. If you reside within the Greater Vancouver area and plan on hitting any of the numerous public and/or private courts around the Lower Mainland, you will want to schedule a consultation with our Burnaby-Coquitlam clinic before picking up that racket. Contact Absolute PhysioCare today.