Wimbledon Special: avoiding tennis shoulder injuries

The countdown to Wimbledon 2018 is on and tennis stars from across the world are ramping up their training for one of tennis’ most glittering prizes. However, with vigorous training comes an increased risk of injury – especially to the shoulders.

Tennis players are at risk of numerous types of injuries, but shoulder injuries are potentially one of the worst. They can put a player out of action for months, possibly even ending their career depending upon the severity. So, what shoulder injuries are tennis players susceptible to and how can they be prevented?

Common tennis shoulder injuries

preventing tennis shoulder injuriesDue to the highly dynamic and unusual motion, the shoulders are put through during overhead throwing sports such as tennis, the risk of injury is pretty high. Below, we’ll look at some of the most common shoulder injuries tennis players face throughout their career.

  • Labral injury:  The shoulder joint socket is surrounded by the labrum, a layer of fibrous tissue. Repetitive overhead motions can cause this tissue to tear, leading to significant pain, joint instability and a limited range of motion. Labral injuries are by far one of the most common shoulder injuries suffered by tennis players.
  • Shoulder bursitis: Commonly linked to shoulder impingement, this condition is caused by the rotator cuff rubbing against the front of the shoulder blade. The friction leads to the bursa becoming inflamed. This condition tends to develop quite slowly, becoming worse over time. Eventually, the shoulder will become very stiff and if it’s left untreated, could freeze up altogether.
  • Rotator cuff tears: Although rotator cuff tears are less common, they do tend to be one of the more serious shoulder injuries in tennis players. The tears typically occur due to overuse of the shoulder, or because of a traumatic injury. The tear can be partial or complete, causing pain whenever the arm is raised or lowered, along with weakness in the arm and in some cases, muscle atrophy.
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis:  Another rotator cuff injury tennis players face is rotator cuff tendonitis. This basically means the tendons become inflamed and it occurs due to overuse of overhead motions.

Each of the shoulder conditions above can vary in severity, making them difficult to diagnose and treat; especially by a GP. Therefore, it is crucial for patients to seek a diagnosis as quickly as possible from a qualified shoulder specialist.

Preventing tennis shoulder injuries

It isn’t always possible to prevent shoulder injuries, especially if you’re partaking in the sport at a professional level. However, building up the strength in the shoulder and back muscles can help lower the risk slightly.

Making sure you’re following the proper posture when carrying out overhead serves is also crucial to injury prevention. However, if a shoulder injury does occur, it is vital you seek early diagnosis.

Tennis players are at an increased risk of shoulder injury. Therefore, if any pain is felt in the shoulder, it is highly recommended the player seeks treatment as quickly as possible. All shoulder injuries will become worse if left untreated. This could lead to significant time away from the sport.