• Shouldering the Burden: The Other Tennis Elbow

      Tennis season is undeniably underway for those of us who dust off our rackets when the weather hits 75 degrees. We’ve all heard of tennis elbow, but the muscles and tendons of the shoulder are just as susceptible to inflammation and pain as the elbow. Even if it’s just a light rally with a friend, your swings make repeated demands on the tissue in your shoulder and can cause injury through overuse; the result: tendinitis.

      The two most common shoulder injuries for tennis players are tendinitis and bursitis. Bursitis affects the tiny fluid-filled bursa that provides a cushion between the bones and tendons around a joint. Tendinitis is a result of inflammation and damage to the tendons.

      If you feel the wear of your stroke in your shoulder, then start by asking a tennis pro to evaluate your form and equipment so that you have the right grip and a proper racket. Similarly, never play with dead balls, which can needlessly tax the mechanics of your arm. And while it’s not ideal, replacing your overhead shots with ground strokes can greatly alleviate the strain on your shoulder. Your serve may have to take a backseat for a few games, but altering your technique in this way can greatly divert the strains on your shoulder that are the root cause of inflammation.

      And what about in the gym—how often do you focus on building strength and endurance in your shoulder’s rotator cuff or scapula muscles? Because these tissues are involved in many overuse injuries, a physical therapist or personal trainer should be able to suggest some workouts that strengthen this muscle region that is often an afterthought of most workout routines.

      The rest is quite easy: stay hydrated, remember to ice your shoulder when done playing, and, if your physician recommends it, take an anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve discomfort. These tips may seem straightforward, but the simplest preventative steps are sometimes the easiest to overlook, no matter your age or skill set.

      Off the court, try not to sleep on the shoulder that’s bothering you. You might want to even consider taking a break for a few weeks—overuse injuries can oftentimes heal with rest, allowing the inflammation to go down while the tissue heals. If the pain persists, consult an orthopedic surgeon about further options.

      There are a number of ways to get the best out of your tennis game, but prevention and knowing your limits will keep you swinging for plenty of hot summers to come.