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Did Serena, Mario and co inspire you to give tennis a go this summer? Tennis is a physically demanding sport and requires a combination of full body fitness and co-ordination. This means that injuries are common, often exacerbated by incorrect technique, poor conditioning or inappropriate attire and equipment. Our therapist, Kiri Norton, has shared her top tips for avoiding the five most common tennis injuries.

1) The Infamous Tennis Elbow

What is it? Tennis Elbow is a condition where the outer forearm muscles become inflamed or have small tears which causes pain on the outer part of the elbow.

What are the symptoms? Pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, which may travel down towards your wrist. Pain when bending or lifting your arm, gripping your racket or twisting your forearm. Pain and stiffness when fully extending the elbow.

Why does tennis cause it? Players tend to overload the forearm muscles, particularly when new to the sport. Additional causes include a faulty backhand technique and a tendency to swing from the elbow, leading the racket.

How can you avoid it?

  • Check the string tension of your racket and reduce this if necessary, as less tension means less impact on your forearm muscles.
  • The risk of tennis elbow can be hugely reduced by investing in some coaching sessions to ensure you are using the correct swing, grip and racket.

2) Tennis Shoulder

What is it? There are 4 rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder which help aid shoulder movement in all directions. Tennis shoulder (also known as rotator cuff tendinitis) occurs when the tendons of these muscles become inflamed and irritated.

Why does tennis cause it? Tennis shoulder is caused by the tremendous repetitive forces which occur when hitting the ball. Over time, this damages and inflames the tendons, causing tendinitis.

What are the symptoms? Weak shoulder movements, pain when putting your arm behind your back, pain when raising and lowering your arm, clicking or flicking sensation when raising your arm, swelling at front of your shoulder, stiff and restricted shoulder movement.

How can you avoid it?

  • Work on strengthening your shoulder muscles so they can cope with the repeated motion of swinging the racket to the ball.
  • Stretch your whole body thoroughly before playing, including your shoulders. Tight muscles restrict movement and are more likely to inflame due to friction.
  • Consult a tennis coach to ensure your technique is correct, so your swings are more efficient and require less force.

3) Wrist Strain

What is it? A wrist strain occurs when the tendons of your wrist muscles become damaged.

What are the symptoms? Pain around the wrist, swelling and perhaps bruising in the area, spasms in your wrist muscles, some loss of movement and flexibility in the wrist.

Why does tennis cause it? A wrist strain is caused when tendons in the area are over stretched in a forceful nature. In tennis players often go to strike the ball with the racket and misses, they yank their wrist which damages the tendons. It can also be caused during return shots, when the ball travels with force and causes both your racket and wrist to bend backwards.

How can you avoid it?

  • Make sure your racket is the correct weight with the correct handle size to suit your individual grip and swing, and use the “hand shake grip” with the arm in an L shape position.
  • It’s also a good idea to invest in wrist supports and shoes with strong grip, to prevent unnecessary injuries when tripping over.

4) Lower Back Pain

What is it? Lower back pain is a very common tennis ailment and the pain can come in all different forms, from sharp sudden pains to dull and long lasting aches.

What are the symptoms? Sudden, sharp persistent pain that may be worse after prolonged standing, sitting or running, muscle spasms in the area, pain that radiates down to your glutes and even hamstrings.

Why does tennis cause it? During service strokes, players exaggerate the arch in their back to increase power, which puts pressure on the tissues and joints of the spine. Overuse is a frequent cause, due to repeatedly rotating, flexing and extending the spine when serving.

How can you avoid it?

  • Wear shoes with plenty of cushioning to help absorb the impact caused by running around the court when playing tennis.
  • Strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles so they are as prepared as possible, also remembering to stretch your lower back and hamstrings thoroughly.
  • Lower back mobility exercises are also important, so rotate from side to side before a match.


5) Ankle Sprains

What is it? An ankle sprain, also known as a twisted ankle, occurs when the ligaments within the ankle become overstretched and damage.

What are the symptoms? Swelling, bruising, tenderness, pain in the area, stiffness and trouble weight bearing.

Why does tennis cause it? The most common cause of an ankle sprain in tennis is twisting, rolling over on the ankle or landing on the outside part of the ankle. Most injuries occur towards the end of the match when the player is tired and less alert.

How can you avoid it?

  • Ensure your shoes are supportive and consider wearing an ankle support. It’s worth taping your ankle if you’ve sprained it before, to help avoid a repeat injury.
  • Focus on conditioning and stamina when working out off the court, so that you don’t get tired towards the end of matches.
  • Use balance and coordination exercises to improve the proprioception of the ankles. One legged exercises and wobble board programs are ideal for this.
  • Simple preparation can also help, so remove all balls from the court to avoid tripping hazards!

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