Getting hurt on or off the tennis court is never fun. Whether you are a new player or have been in this sport for decades, tennis injuries are an unfortunate but common problem for players.
Some common tennis-related injuries include tennis elbow, rotator cuff tears, back pain/stress fractures, tennis knee, and even sprained ankles. These injuries can quickly take a player off the court and into recovery, so it’s essential to prevent them.
Whether you are currently out with an injury or want to protect yourself from one: we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn about the most common tennis injuries (and how you can prevent them).
Most Common Tennis Injuries
1. Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow, or Lateral epicondylitis, is when a tennis player’s tendons joining the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow become inflamed. As this injury progresses, you may experience pain or burning on the outside of the elbow and weak grip strength.
For a tennis player, this means more challenges, primarily when serving or returning a ball.
How To Avoid
It’s a good idea not to overuse or overwork your joints on the court to avoid tennis elbow. Warming up before a game, stretching your arm muscles, and using lightweight rackets will also help prevent this. (1)
2. Rotator Cuff Tears
Another common tennis injury to be mindful of is rotator cuff tears. The rotator cuff can tear gradually, especially with overuse or improper tennis playing, affecting the four muscles and tendons that come together to allow mobility in the shoulder.
When this happens to you, your shoulder may feel tender, painful, or weak: resulting in difficulty lifting the arm. You may also notice snapping or cracking when you use the affected arm/shoulder.
How To Avoid
To prevent rotator cuff tears, work on improving shoulder muscle strength. This can be light exercise, like lifting weights or warming up with push-ups before a game.
It’s also a good idea to avoid using wet balls while playing tennis and slowly move between racket types/sizes. Any slight change can make a big difference in your game.
3. Back Pain and Stress Fractures
One of the most common and chronic injuries from tennis is back pain. This may also lead to stress fractures, as many motions in tennis put stress on the vertebrae in the lower back.
Over time, this can become a stress fracture, causing long-term back pains on and off the tennis court. Many medical experts even suggest that moderate back pain can become spondylolisthesis over time, in which the vertebra shifts forward. (2)
How To Avoid
The best way to prevent back pain and stress fractures in tennis is to warm up before a game. Gently rotate and stretch your back muscles before and after a game to keep them fluid and fracture-free. (3)
It might also be good to incorporate other low-impact activities, including biking or swimming. It’s easier to prevent a stress fracture than heal it: so always warm up and cool down when playing tennis.
4. Tennis Knee/Jumping Knee
Moving down to the legs, tennis knee occurs when a player puts immense stress on the knee due to jumping and landing throughout their game. The patellar tendon attaches the kneecap to the shinbone, and when it becomes damaged: your walking and movement can decline.
Tennis knee is medically known as ‘Patellar Tendonitis.’ If you run into this, you may experience pain/swelling, and the affected area can feel warm to the touch.
How To Avoid
To avoid tennis knees, we recommend stretching before and after each game or practice, focusing on your knees and legs. Wear comfortable supporting shoes, and don’t put too much strain on your body while playing on cement courts. (4)
5. Sprained Ankle
Because tennis players are constantly moving, much of their reliance falls on the ankles. It’s not uncommon to experience a sprained ankle in tennis; frequent running and jumping are the leading culprits.
Clay tennis courts can become a problem for players’ ankles, leading to sprains. A sprain can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the ankle, making walking, running, jumping, and resting on it uncomfortable.
How To Avoid
One of the best ways to prevent sprained ankles in tennis is by wearing supportive shoes. (5) You also want to warm up, cool down, and stretch before/after a game.
For new tennis players, this post features 15 pieces of advice to improve your skills.
Is Tennis A High-Injury Sport?
No. Overall, tennis is one of the lower-risk sports for injuries. However, many players experience injuries that often affect the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet with improper/overplaying.
As we covered, warming up, cooling down, and wearing the correct shoes while playing tennis can avoid these things.
How Long Does It Take Tennis Elbow To Heal?
Because tennis elbow is one of the most common injuries for players, recovery time can vary significantly. However, most people experience tennis elbow symptoms between 6 months and two years, with most (90%) fully recovering within one year. (6)
Can I Play Tennis While Injured?
No. If you become injured while playing tennis, getting back on the court is not recommended until your condition improves. It’s best to consult with a doctor and begin a treatment plan, often requiring physical therapy.
Tennis Injuries May Take You Off The Court
This article covered common tennis injuries, including tennis elbow, rotator cuff tears, back pain and stress fractures, tennis knee, and sprained ankles.
It’s best to warm up and cool down after playing tennis, as this can help cut back on the chances of being injured. You also want to prioritize your shoes, choosing supportive and comfortable materials. Stay healthy, and thanks for reading!
We also did an article on 18 surprising health benefits of tennis that is worth the read.
Disclaimer: This article provides information on tennis injuries for general informational purposes only. We are not medical professionals; the content should not be considered professional advice or a substitute for consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.