Anyone for Tennis?
The tennis season is well underway and Wimbledon promises to be the usual sporting spectacle. The big sporting events – the Euros, Olympics, Tour de France, to name but a few – tend to inspire many to have a go, maybe for the first time, or improve their game.
Scope of Tennis Injury seen at Health in Motion Osteopaths
We see a lot of tennis players at Health in Motion Osteopaths, from club level players to those wanting to get back into the game after a long break. There is a wide range of injury they bring with them – repetitive strain in the elbow – fondly referred to as tennis elbow – shoulder rotator cuff injury, calf strain, and so on. Whatever the injury, we find that if the player does not have good movement and stability within the axial skeleton (spine and pelvis) then this may lead to injury, not only in the back but elsewhere.
The root of most Tennis Injury
In this article I will explore the common complaint of recurrent back injury, which has plagued many top players like Andy Murray right down to us mere mortals. I describe why it can occur in fit individuals; and offer some tips on how best to defend against it.
Biomechanics & Forces
Back injuries have affected Andy Murray for some time, but why? If we consider what forces are absorbed by the body when playing tennis, it may go some way to explaining some of the underlying causes of back injury. During play, forces exerted on the axial skeleton create combined flexion (forward bending) and torsion (rotation), punctuated by impact created when contact is made with a ball travelling at speed. This combination of focus and impact can cause traumatic or slow onset disc injury.
Defence against avoidable Injury
How can you avoid injury from this combined force? The lower back has relatively little rotation available compared to the upper back therefore it stands to reason that flexibility in the latter can actually help protect the low back. Also, flexion in the hips and knees for those deep shots will help protect the lumbar spine. Gentle rotation and side bending exercises for the upper back can help to improve the compliance of this area and limit excessive forces being transmitted into the low back. Paying attention to strength in the bottom muscles (gluteals), flexibility in the hips, and joint alignment in the knees and ankles will pay dividends also.
When it comes to high impact sports like tennis, maintaining a level of whole body conditioning will go a long way. This may seem counter intuitive to those who want to take up tennis to get fit, but the reality is that if your body isn’t used to the excessive forces and demands being placed on it the chance of injury is increased. Doing low level drills and court based exercise can be a really good way of easing yourself into the game, rather than just pounding tennis balls back and forth without proper preparation and warming up.
Playing Tennis in Ealing or Maidenhead? Osteopathy at your Service!
The most important thing to remember when playing tennis or any sport is to enjoy it! Getting some exercise and fresh air is good for us all, especially with all the lovely green spaces available in Ealing and Maidenhead. Here are a few tips that may help to keep you injury free for years to come.
- Use a racket that is the right size and weight for you. Speak to a specialist supplier for help.
- Make sure the grip is the right thickness. Incorrect size can cause elbow and forearm pain and create unnecessary tension in the back and shoulder muscles.
- Experiment with slight adjustments to your usual grip to to release tension in the back and shoulders.
- Wear appropriate footwear. Good support can limit the chance of foot and ankle injuries.
- Warm up and cool down properly. We can advise you on that!
- If you’re carrying an injury don’t ignore it! Please come and speak to us for advice.
- Visit Health in Motion Osteopaths (pre season, during season and / or post season) for targeted body adjustments and a bespoke exercise plan to enhance your enjoyment and effectiveness in the game. We can also advise on grip and technique adjustment.
Jon Juviler, Registered Osteopath at Health in Motion Osteopaths