With tennis season being in full swing, you may have been watching some of the Wimbledon matches in recent weeks. Tennis, like any other sport, is loved by both professional athletes as well as amateurs that enjoy playing as a way to keep fit, healthy and agile. Due to the nature of tennis though, players do incur injuries, that often need treatment. Here we look at a couple of common tennis-related injuries and how to treat them.
Tennis Leg is caused by a tear to the inner head of the large calf muscle, or the plantaris muscle, which is the thin muscle running from the back of the knee down through the calf muscle to the heel. Sometimes both muscles are affected.
This injury isn’t just caused from playing tennis. Tennis Leg occurs most frequently, whilst force is applied when the knee is straight, including jumping and pushing off. As both of these movements are used when playing tennis, this is how the term Tennis Leg has derived.
When the muscle ruptures, it can cause a sudden sharp pain in the calf muscle, or in the back of the knee. Movement of the ankle may also be affected.
Standing on tiptoes may be difficult and swelling and bruising at the back of the leg are also common symptoms of Tennis Leg.
Some sufferers of Tennis Leg mistake it for deep vein thrombosis, as symptoms are similar.
Muscle strains like Tennis Leg can often be treated using the PRICES methodology:
Ice. Applied as soon as possible after the injury occurs and repeated for 10-15 minutes per hour, to help reduce any swelling. As symptoms improve, the frequency and duration can be reduced
Compression. Elastic support bandages can be used to support the joint as it heals. It also minimises swelling
Elevation. Elevate the leg as much as possible and only return to full weight bearing when pain reduces
As pain ceases, gentle stretches should be performed followed by strengthening exercises, only once there is no pain. Band plantar flexion exercises can be done to help strengthen the calf and plantaris muscles again following PRICE.
An orthopaedic specialist can help you with an exercise programme and refer you to a physiotherapist should you need more intensive exercises.
Injuries to the Achilles tendon are most common in amateur tennis players between age 35 and 45. Rather than it being a snap injury, Achilles tendon occurs over time, as a degeneration of the tendon. It is different to tendonitis, which is an inflammation.
Repetitive movements by running and jumping, both frequent in tennis, is how Achilles tendon occurs.
The symptoms of Achilles tendon are gradual, with a localised pain in the heel initially in the morning or when starting exercise. If this condition persists, then the pain may become permanent, even when sleeping.
Exercise can worsen the situation and hinder recovery times.
Using PRICE methodology can certainly help in the first instance. Protection and Rest are both very important and you may need to temporarily replace tennis activities with swimming or cycling, which don’t involve such impact on the Achilles tendon.
Ice can help to reduce any swelling and Compression using an special Achilles tendon bandage may help alleviate symptoms whilst supporting the ankle joint.
If your injury is severe and doesn’t improve with therapy, then you may require surgery to repair the ruptured tendon. This needs to be performed by an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, and is typically available these days as an outpatient surgery, meaning you can go home the same day, without the need to recover in hospital.
To prevent re-injury it is important not to start training at the same frequency or intensity, until your injury is heeled.
Wearing the correct footwear is also important and you may like to consider the use of Orthotics, or shoe inserts to ensure the best fit possible. An orthopaedic specialist can also discuss this option with you so you can get back to playing tennis, whilst protecting yourself from future injuries.