Somewhere between your perfectly-placed forehand approach shot and your put-away overhead, it happens: A tennis injury that leaves you achy, moving gingerly, or even completely sidelined. Even when you take all of the usual precautions for avoiding sunburn (sunblock 15 minutes before playing outdoors) and blisters (bring a second pair of socks so you’ll have dry ones to slip into mid-match), other injuries can happen despite your best intentions. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prevent these types of injuries before they happen—and there are ways to bounce back more quickly if you do get one.
A mean backhand may be behind this gradually worsening elbow pain that can feel like it radiates from the elbow down the forearm when you grip your racquet.
Prevent It: A physical therapist or trainer can teach you exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and ligaments that contribute to tennis elbow, focusing on the wrist and forearm. One to try a few times a week: Hold a tennis ball in your hand and squeeze it for five to 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat a several times.
You also may want to consider your equipment. Popular oversized racquets may be one risk factor since the larger surface area can increase torque, which puts more stress on your arm. Look for a mid-size racquet measuring 95 to 110 square inches, and have it restrung with synthetic nylon every six months.
A racquet grip that’s too big or too small for your hands can also be a factor. When you grip your racquet, you should be able to touch the tip of your thumb to the top knuckle of your middle finger.
Weak muscles and ligaments in your lower legs, plus the constant side-to-side motions that are part of every tennis game, combine to set you up for ankle sprains.
Sudden stops, pivots and directional changes can take a toll on your knees—especially if you step wrong. Straining or even tearing the ligaments that support the knee, like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can happen in an instant.
It’s the quick starts and stops again, but sometimes the toes take the brunt of the force, jamming against the front of your shoes. When this happens repeatedly, it can cause bleeding and a build-up of pressure under your toenail.
If It Happens: A physician can relieve the pressure by drilling a hole in the toenail.