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Common tennis-related injuries

Consultant hand and wrist surgeon, Mr Andy Hacker from BMI The Saxon Clinic offers advice on common tennis related injuries, including symptoms to look out for, available treatment and how to prevent future injury.

When it comes to getting injured, hand and wrist injuries are unfortunately very common amongst tennis players. In fact, studies suggest that players can suffer from injury up to almost three times a year. Not only can injury impact their ability to continue playing tennis, but it can also make carrying out everyday tasks and activities difficult.

Common symptoms of tennis-related injuries:

Symptoms may include:

  • Injury or inflammation
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • A feeling that the wrist is unstable
  • Clicking of the joints

The three most common tennis-related conditions are:

1. ECU tendonitis can affect your tennis game

When the ECU (Extensor Carpi Ulanris) tendon becomes injured, it becomes inflamed. This can cause chronic pain. In some cases it may cause the tendon to “snap” around the ulna bone with certain wrist movements, particularly rotation.

How can ECU tendonitis treated?

Treatment of this condition initially consists of simple anti-inflammatory medication, icing the area regularly, splinting, kinesiology taping and activity modification. Cases that don’t improve may benefit from a local steroid injection. If you experience a ’snapping tendon’, you may require surgery to stabilise the tendon.

2. De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a common tennis-related condition

De Quervain's tenosynovitis the inflammation of two of the tendons that cross the wrist at the base of the thumb. The tendons usually glide smoothly through a tight soft tissue tunnel, but when they are inflamed this becomes more difficult and causes pain when moving the wrist and thumb.

How can De Quervain's tenosynovitis treated?

Treatment is largely the same as it is for ECU tendonitis. If this is not effective, sometimes a small operation is required to release the tendon from the soft tissue tunnel. It’s important that any splint prescribed is the correct one and is made by a specialist hand therapist.

3. Tennis Elbow

Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is an inflammatory disorder which causes pain and aching on the bony part of the outside of the elbow. It’s caused by repetitive micro-trauma to the insertion point of several of the muscles responsible for cocking your wrist back.

Symptoms can include severe, achy pain over the outside of the elbow, an inability to fully straighten the arm and worsening pain with various activities, such as carrying heavy shopping.

How can tennis elbow be treated?

Specific, targeted and sustained physiotherapy and stretching, as well as activity modification, is the mainstay of treatment. Again, splinting and kinesiology taping can be useful. Cases resistant to this treatment may benefit from other interventions such as injections.

How can you prevent an injury from occurring during a tennis game?

There are a few things you can do to try and minimise the risk of developing an upper limb injury during a tennis game.

Ensure that your tennis racket “fits” you - is the grip size correct for your hand? Is your tennis racket strung to the correct tension? Your local tennis shop should be able to advise you on these issues.

Pay attention to your technique - are you holding your tennis racket correctly? Are you hitting the tennis ball at the right time during your swing? If in doubt, seek the advice of your local tennis coach.

Warm up and cool down - make sure you warm up and cool down each time you play, and adjust your activities if you develop discomfort or pain. Approach your local tennis coach for a lesson to ensure your basic techniques are up to scratch.

If your symptoms do not improve with measures such as rest, ice, splinting, analgesia and activity modification, you should seek the advice of a specialist therapist or a suitably qualified upper limb surgeon.

At BMI Healthcare we offer sports injuries clinics and physiotherapy that provide tailored treatment.

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