Tennis is one of the most popular sports throughout the world, with approximately 75 million participants worldwide. It is a sport that you can play at every age and at every level, and is a fun and social (as well as competitive) way to add to your weekly activity goals.
Playing tennis regularly brings with it the benefits of all regular physical activity, including reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, many cancers, dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, ageing, osteoporosis and musculoskeletal disorders like back pain, and arthritis.
Here are some other benefits of participating in tennis:
Strong heart: Compared with other sports, tennis players have the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease. Playing just 3 hours a week will reduce your risk of heart disease by 56%.
Improved balance, agility and injury resilience: Playing tennis hones your agility, balance, coordination, reaction time and more. These skills can help protect against rolling an ankle or tripping and falling, often resulting in sprains, Colles fracture of the wrist or worse, a hip.
Reduced stress and increased brain power: Tennis involves physical and mental challenges and social and emotional (depending on the nature of your competitive tendencies!) interactions. These increase your capacity to deal with stress. Equally, running around smashing some balls may help you to blow off some steam! From alertness to tactical thinking, tennis enhances the neural connections in your brain, and kids who play tennis have been seen to regularly get better grades at school.
Stronger, healthier bones: Playing tennis from an early age has a substantial effect on health of your bones, and even if you take up the game later in life you can still reap some benefits, combating the development of osteoporosis. The strength you build in your leg muscles helps to maintain mobility and independence in old age.
Higher fitness levels: Tennis is an excellent interval training technique for elite and recreational players alike – running, stopping, bursts of activity followed by rest between points or games is proven to be hugely beneficial in improving fitness levels and in cardiovascular conditioning too.
Leaner body and weight loss: An hour of singles play can burn 580–870 calories, so can be a fun way to lose weight and prevent/manage cardiovascular diseases. Having a lighter frame reduces loading on your back and joints, ultimately reducing joint pain and risk of possible arthritis.
Don’t Let Yourself Be Sidelined by Tennis Injuries
But these health benefits won’t be very fruitful if you are sitting side-lined because of pain or injury. Whilst certain injuries are quick to repair, others may be more stubborn, taking 6 weeks or more and there is a real risk of re-injury.
Nearly two thirds of tennis injuries are chronic overuse injuries, many of which are caused by poor technique, incorrect equipment use and lack of physical conditioning. Acute injuries, like an ankle sprain or calf strain, although sudden and unpredictable can also be prevented with adequate preparation and appropriate conditioning.
Many people presume tennis elbow is the number one tennis injury, however, for regular players and those who lead generally active lives the top seed in the injury rankings is the…
A sprain is defined as a tearing or partial tearing of the ligaments that connect bone to bone and helps to stabilise the joint. The sudden sideways movements, quick lunges and changes in direction during tennis can cause the ankle to twist. On the outside of the ankle (lateral side), the joint is stabilised by three small ligaments. Sprains to any of these ligaments (inversion sprains, foot twisting inwards) account for more than 80% of all ankle sprains.
Key risk factors for ankle sprains are:
- Previous or existing ankle injuries, especially if poorly rehabilitated.
- Lack of strength and stability related to the ankle.
- Lack of, or extreme flexibility in the ankle (laxity or unstable ankle joint).
- Poor balance or proprioceptive feedback.
See our Ankle sprains – treatment and rehabilitation blog post for guidance on what to do immediately after you suffer a sprain and exercises to support rehabilitation. It is proven that good rehabilitation significantly improves the level of ankle function and minimises the chances of the injury recurring; your manual therapist can play a big part in successful rehab. Treatments may include flexibility, balance, stretching, strengthening and sport-specific exercises.
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, occurs in about 40% of all tennis players.
Acute tennis elbow is an injury to the muscles and tendon that extend (straighten) the wrist and fingers. It occurs when more force is applied to that area than the normal healthy tissue can handle. The site of the pain is typically the lateral epicondyle, a bony bump on the outside of the elbow where these muscles attach via the extensor tendon. The tennis elbow sufferer will experience pain when performing gripping tasks or resisted wrist/finger extension.
Tennis elbow should be diagnosed by a physical therapist or doctor, using clinical tests, as referred pain from the neck and reduced nerve mobility can mimic tennis elbow. Your osteopath or physio can treat symptoms and aid your rehab in the following ways:
- Massage therapy to relieve pain and help lengthen and stretch tight muscles and structures.
- Manual therapy to mobilise joints in the elbow and around the neck to ensure normal function.
- Prescribing exercise therapy to strengthen and balance the muscles of the forearm and stretches given to lengthen muscles and relieve pressure on nerves.
- Dry Needling for pain relief, releasing trigger points in the muscle and promoting tissue healing.
- Taping and bracing the elbow when you return to sport.
The following exercises can form part of a tennis elbow rehab; your therapist will advise you on the speed you should progress on the strengthening/movement control programme. Progression is not just about being able to do the exercise but to do it correctly, with appropriate control. Poor practice can lead to further strain on your injury.
See the Resources section below for free guidance sheets on the signs, symptoms, causes and treatment paths for both ankle sprains and tennis elbow.
If you found this content helpful, you can also follow us on Facebook at Dominic Malone Osteopathy and Instagram at @dm_osteopathy for additional titbits of advice and guidance for the whole body. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel which includes “How To” demonstration videos for some of our favourite exercises.
- Ankle sprains – treatment and rehabilitation blog post
- Advice & guidance on tennis injuries (ankle sprains and tennis elbow)
- Tennis Elbow Exercises (with clickable links to YouTube demonstration videos)
- Tennis Elbow Prevention and Treatment Advice