There is a surge in people taking up tennis due to Wimbledon fever and Andy Murray’s astounding straight set win over Novak Djokovic. We’re seeing a lot of kids taking up tennis through their local coaching academy and being referred in to us by their coach for a biomechanical assessment, as well as more seasoned players picking up niggling injuries. So let’s talk about tennis and the particular demands it can place on your body, and how podiatrists can prevent and treat tennis injuries or even improve your game with appropriate therapies.
Tennisis a sport of very high physical demand and over the past decade has seen an increase in lower limb injuries. The surface of a tennis court, whether clay, composition, hard, astroturf or grass, can have a significant effect on the players form (as was the case during this year’s Wimbledon and many of the players falling and being injured).
As with other court sports, tennis is a multidirectional game, involving medial and lateral (side to side) as well as forward and backward movements. Players will train to adapt their game depending on the court terrain and physical demand, failure to do so will result in injury. Some commentators cite a lack of preparation for moving to grass from say clay, taking too large side to side steps resulting in nasty falls, for example at this year’s Wimbledon.
Many acute injuries in tennis occur from;
1) Repeated lateral movement,
2) Sudden powerful movement from a stationary position
3) Stopping abruptly
4) and (as recently seen at Wimbledon this year) poor surface judgment.
Frequent injuries include ligamentous tears or ruptures, stress fractures and dislocations. Tennis leg, groin tear, ankle sprain, Achillie’s tendonitis and plantar fasciitis are all common complaints of the tennis player, whether professional or amateur.
Groin injuries most often result from lateral (side to side) movement. Lateral momentum is naturally decelerated by the contraction of the hip adductors and flexor muscles but wrong footing or poor surface judgment will lead to muscle tearing rather than deceleration.
A tear to the medial head of Gastrocnemius (one third of the calf muscle), known as tennis leg, is the most common injury to occur in tennis. Players often describe this as feeling as though they have been hit on the back of the leg.
Overuse and Biomechanics
Muscles and tendons continually extend and contract during play, which can result in fatigue and overuse syndrome. A degenerative process often occurs in overused muscles whereby tissue breakdown is faster than tissue repair.
Many of the injuries are attributed to micro trauma “a consequence of the aforementioned overuse, resulting in chronic inflammation and subsequent structural degeneration. Such is the case with microtearing of the plantar fascia = heel pain syndrome”. Achilles tendonitis is another example of overuse injury.
Although ground terrain and physical intensity play a significant role, underlying abnormal biomechanical mal alignment is often the predisposing factor to injury. An underlying biomechanical mal alignment will see increased contraction in overcompensating muscle groups. The biomechanics of tennis place constant tension on muscles, tendons and ligament “ thus players with an underlying malalignment are more likely to bear an injury “ acute or chronic.
If, like many of us, Wimbledon fever has inspired you to play more or take up tennis then pay particular attention to muscle strain and general aches “ early treatment will prevent serious injury.
At Dubai Podiatry Centre we specialize in sports biomechanics, including the in-house manufacture of fully custom made orthotics designed specifically for tennis players, both amateur and professional. Contact us for an expert opinion, assessment, diagnosis or treatment, and we can help you rally back to full fitness.
Call: + 971 4 3435390
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