Injures are every players nightmare. Time off the court is not only a loss of potentials earning but its also that match toughness and confidence that players really depend on.
In a study of high level tennis players it was found that the lower extremity is the most commonly injured followed by the upper extremity and then the trunk. The ankle and thigh were the most frequently injured. (Dines et al., 2015)
It has been shown that female athletes have a higher injury rate than males. Data from Wimbledon Tennis Championships collected over 10 years showed that injuries occur in female players at a rate 23.4 injuries per 1000 sets played versus male players 17.7 injuries per 1000 sets played. (McCurdie, Smith, Bell, & Batt, 2016) The most prevalent injuries in female tennis player are in the lower extremities followed by shoulders and then abdominal strains.
1. Shoulder injuries
In the elite tennis player shoulder injuries do occur but not as frequently as lower extremity injuries. The rotator cuff is the most commonly injured followed by the long head of the biceps. Inflammation of structures, such as the bursa and tendons in the shoulder, will cause pain and limitation of motion. Decreased internal rotation of the shoulder correlates well with injury. The mechanics of the tennis serve causes tightening of the posterior shoulder capsule and limits internal rotation. A simple stretch for the posterior shoulder capsule can reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.
A thigh strain can include but may not be limited to the hamstring, quadriceps and adductor muscles. Strains often happen acutely but there are factors that can predispose female tennis players to thigh strains. Females have less power in both of their legs especially their power leg during the serve. With less power, women have a tendency to rely on their quadriceps and adductors during the landing phase. Developing strength in the gluteal muscles as well as core stability will help eliminate these strains.
3. Abdominal Strains and tears
The abdominal muscles include not only the rectus abdominis but the internal and external obliques. The rectus abdominis is a muscle responsible for trunk flexion and producing power. The obliques are considered trunk stabilizers and rotational movers of the trunk. All three of the muscles are at risk for injury.
Recruitment of the deep abdominals – the Transversus Abdominis and the pelvic floor muscles are also very important in injury prevention. They are low level stabilizers and weakness of these muscles has been shown to be a predictor in low back pain. Exercises that recruit these deep core muscles are very important too.
Abdominal strains are prevalent in women’s tennis. Evidence suggests that decreased hip flexion leads to abdominal strain (Young et al., 2014). If there is decreased leg power the rectus abdominis (contralateral from serving arm) is at a higher risk for a tear (Tubez et al., 2015) Increasing power in the thighs and gluteal muscles can help with generating leg drive on the serving leg to avoid abdominal strain.