First Aid for Tennis

Tennis is a racquet sport that is popular among Australians of all ages, and for good reason. Tennis can help people improve their strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity. However, tennis players are prone to a wide variety of soft tissue injuries.
Tennis is a racquet sport that is popular among Australians of all ages, and for good reason. Tennis can help people improve their strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity. However, tennis players are prone to a wide variety of soft tissue injuries.

Tennis is a racquet sport that can be played individually or as a pair.

According to Tennis Australia, tennis was the fastest growing sport across all ages at the conclusion of 2021, with over 1.5 million Australians signing up for the 2021/2022 tennis season.

It is unsurprising that tennis is becoming increasingly popular among younger generations. Tennis is known to improve aerobic capacity and muscle tone, while simultaneously reducing stress and body fat. Likewise, tennis clubs provide a great opportunity for players to socialise with like-minded people.

However, as with most sports, tennis is not without injury.

Continue reading for a closer look at the benefits of tennis, as well as the most common injuries among tennis players and how to treat them.

Health Benefits of Tennis

Improved muscle tone, strength, and flexibility

If you have ever watched a tennis match, you will have noticed that tennis players constantly move across the court, and they stretch out their arms and legs to reach the ball and keep it in play. This helps improve their flexibility and agility.

The constant running and jumping also helps tone the muscles in their lower body, while the alternate use of forehands and backhands to hit the ball helps improve the muscles in their upper body and core.

Improved bone density and aerobic capacity

Tennis is also a tonic for good bone health, as the impact of hitting the ball and bounding across the court improves bone density. Bone density refers to the amount of bone mineral in bone tissue. People with low bone density are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak, brittle, and prone to breaking.

As tennis players are constantly moving, even while standing in the one spot, their heart is constantly pumping oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. This improves the strength and efficiency of their heart, and subsequently reduces their risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmias.

Improved brain and mental health

Tennis is a tactical sport, as players must anticipate what their opponent will do next. This helps improve their critical thinking and planning skills, as well as generate new connections between nerves in the brain.

As with all forms of exercise, tennis also triggers the brain to release endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins act as analgesics and diminish the perception of pain while reducing stress. Serotonin, meanwhile, is considered a natural mood stabiliser and helps regulate digestion, wound healing, and bone health (among others).

Common Tennis Injuries

Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition in which the tendons that connect the muscles and bones in the forearm are damaged from overuse.

Tennis Elbow occurs when the forearm muscles are repeatedly contracted to straighten and raise the hand and wrist. This condition is not just common among tennis players, but also painters, plumbers, and people who enjoy gardening.

As with most overuse injuries, the symptoms of tennis elbow do not start with a specific injury, but instead develop and worsen over time. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain or burning on the outer part the elbow.
  • Weak grip strength.

These symptoms tend to worsen during activities that engage the forearm, such as:

  • Holding a racquet.
  • Shaking a hand.
  • Using a computer mouse.

Torn Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. It is responsible for holding the shoulder joint in place, and for allowing the arms to move up and away from the body.

As with Tennis Elbow, rotator cuff injuries are generally caused by overuse; specifically, when the shoulder is repeatedly moved in the same direction.

It is especially common in people who repeatedly lift their arms overhead. As such, it does not only occur among tennis players, but also baseball pitchers, painters, and carpenters.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain at rest/night that stops you from lying on the affected shoulder.
  • A crackling sensation and/or cracking sound when moving the affected shoulder in certain ways.
  • Weakness when lifting or rotating the affected arm, or an inability to move it at all.
  • Pain in the affected shoulder that keeps coming back, especially when lifting your arm overhead or performing other specific movements.

Tennis Knee

Tennis Knee, also known as patellar tendonitis, is an overuse injury of the patellar tendon, the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin bone.

Tennis Knee occurs when a person frequently jumps or lands on hard surfaces, which can stress the patellar tendon and cause it to tear.

As well as tennis players, this condition is known to occur in basketballers and netballers. It is characterised by:

  • Pain in the area where the kneecap meets the shinbone before, during, or after sports play.
  • Swelling in the lower part of the knee.
  • Pain in the knee when straightening or bending the leg.
  • Soreness in the area behind the lower kneecap.

First Aid for Tennis Injuries

The most common injuries among tennis players, like the ones mentioned above, tend to be soft tissue injuries. As such, they can be treated with the RICER protocol:

  1. Rest
    You should rest the injured part immediately to reduce internal bleeding and swelling, and to prevent the injury from becoming worse.
  2. Ice
    Apply an ice pack to the injured part to help limit inflammation, and to reduce pain and swelling. Ice packs should only be placed on the injured part for 10 – 15 minutes, before being removed and then reapplied once the injured part becomes warm again i.e., after 30 – 60 minutes. Ice packs should never be directly applied to the skin and should instead be wrapped in a cloth or other barrier.
  3. Compression
    Wrap the injured part with an elastic bandage to help limit swelling.
  4. Elevation
    Raise the injured part above the heart to reduce blood flow.
  5. Referral
    Consult a medical professional to assess the extent of the soft tissue damage to the injured part.

Within the first 48 – 72 hours of receiving a soft tissue injury, it is also essential to apply the ‘Avoid HARM’ protocol. Avoid the following:

  • Applying Heat: Heat can increase blood flow and swelling in the injured part, which inhibits healing.
  • Consuming Alcohol: Alcohol can increase blood flow and make you less aware of your injury, which increases the risk of aggravating it further.
  • Running: Avoid physical activity until the injured part is properly healed.
  • Massage: Massage can increase damage to the injured part if it is done too early, as it encourages blood flow and swelling.

Pain relief, such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, can be used to keep you comfortable, assist with healing, and help you move around after the initial injury. Make sure to follow the directions on the packet.

Conclusion

Tennis is a racquet sport that is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, and for good reason.

Tennis provides numerous physical and emotional health benefits. For instance, it can help players improve their muscle tone, bone strength, and aerobic capacity, as well as increase the amount of nerve connections and happy hormones in the brain.

Tennis clubs, such as the Geelong Lawn Tennis Club, also help bring like-minded people together, and socialising is a fantastic way to increase one's self-esteem and optimism.

However, as with most sports, tennis is not without injury, and players are prone to soft tissue injuries like Tennis Elbow, Tennis Knee, and a Torn Rotator Cuff. Luckily, most soft tissue injuries can be treated with the RICER protocol.

We hope you enjoyed learning about common tennis injuries. If you would like to learn more about how to identify, prevent, and treat a wide range of soft tissue injuries, book a First Aid course with Australia Wide First Aid today.

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