How to Avoid Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is a common problem that often affects avid tennis players. Overuse of the elbow, hand and forearm muscles during long games or extended play can lead to tennis elbow, which affects an area known as the lateral epicondylitis. The lateral epicondylitis is the outside edge of the elbow where muscles meet the bony protrusions of the joint. This area is a key stress point in a variety of tennis swings and can easily get sore after extended play.
This generally appears in a series of symptoms, beginning with gradual but increasing pain in the outer elbow that gets worse when the player tightens his or her hand around an object such as a racquet. Although tennis elbow generally affects men more often than women, the condition will affect an estimated fifty percent of tennis players during their careers.
Tennis camps are a particularly risky time for tennis elbow due to the fact that players spend much more time on-court during a tennis camp than they ordinarily would at home. Once a player has tennis elbow, the condition is treatable with a regiment of icing and physical therapy. It is much easier, however, to avoid getting a bad case of tennis elbow in the first place. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to avoid tennis elbow at your upcoming tennis camp:
1) Stretch and Strengthen
Tennis elbow is classified as an overuse injury that occurs when the muscles of the forearm, hand and elbow essentially give out after excessive stress. This is less likely to happen if the muscles are conditioned, strong and flexible both on and off the court. Before you head to your upcoming tennis camp, start building your tennis muscles so they can stand up to long days spent practicing your swing. A great way to do this is by practicing several simple stretches.
Hold one arm out straight in front of you with your palm facing the ground. Use the other arm to press down on the outstretched hand until the fingers point to the ground. This is called a wrist flexion stretch. Hold this position for three rounds of ten seconds on both sides. Repeat the wrist flexion stretch with the palm facing up to stretch the top of the forearm.
Tennis players should also focus on maintaining fitness in ways that do not place stress on the elbow. Walking, jogging, biking and resistance training are all great ways to stay fit and avoid on-court injuries.
2) Prep for the Game
Before you play a long game or take part in a clinic or class, spend some time priming your muscles. Grip a tennis ball firmly and squeeze and release the ball for 2-3 minutes in each hand. Take a few rounds of wrist flexion stretches and complete several rounds of wrist rolls by making a fist with the elbows bent at the sides and rolling the fist in a circle five times in each direction.
Although these stretches seem insignificant, they are important preventative tactics that, when done correctly and consistently, can greatly reduce your risk of contracting tennis elbow at your upcoming tennis camp.
3) Practice with a Pro
Sometimes, tennis elbow is due to frequency and intensity of play and other times, it is due to poor positioning on the part of the player. The latter is easily avoidable by training with a certified tennis professional. A professional will be able to critique your style, grip and swing in order to help make sure you are not inadvertently making mistakes that are putting you at increased risk for tennis elbow. In addition to keeping you safe, healthy and happy during tennis camp, a tennis pro will also help you build your skills and fine-tune your game.
4) Use Your Backhand
If you feel yourself starting to get sore during a long game, begin playing with a two-handed backhand in order to allow your muscles a chance to rest and recover. This grip will keep you safe by reducing squeeze-pressure and dispensing stress more evenly throughout the hands, forearms and elbows. Additionally, if you’re not a player who often uses the backhand, this can provide an opportunity to strengthen your swing.
5) Change Your Racquet
Players who use racquets that have strings strung at very high tension can actually be more likely to experience tennis elbow due to the increased stress each hit produces. In order to further lessen your chances of getting tennis elbow during tennis camp, invest in a high-quality and comfortable racquet. Ideally, you want something with a flexible shaft and strings strung at a tension of less than 55 lbs. Pay careful attention to the racquet’s grip, too, as it should be soft enough to provide cushion when squeezed.
6) Release the Death Grip and Say Goodbye to Tennis Elbow
During the heat of the game, it can be tough to be mindful enough to release your grip on the racquet between hits, but doing so is an important part of keeping your muscles happy during extended play. If you never release your grip on the racquet, your muscles never get a chance to relax and, as such, are much more likely to be severely over-worked when the game is done. Focus on loosening your grip on the handle during games and try your best to relax your grip just slightly between hits. Another seemingly small trick, this little hint can make a huge difference during a multi-hour game.
For many players, tennis elbow is an unfortunate reality of the game. Some situations, however, put players at increased risk for the muscle overuse that leads to tennis elbow. Tennis camps are prime territory for tennis elbow due to the back-to-back games and extended play times. With a few precautions, stretches and tips, however, you can easily ensure that your court time remains safe, fun and comfortable during your upcoming tennis camp.