Tennis Shoulder Injuries: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
Common Injuries & Causes
The shoulders are used very often in tennis. We use them every match when we serve, hit overheads, and high volleys. This means that like the elbow muscles, the shoulder muscles are vulnerable to damage with improper forms, and neglect. The majority of the issues that happen in the shoulders have to do with the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a small muscle that supports the arm and the shoulder, and is positioned between the top shoulder bone (the clavicle) and the closest arm bone (the humerus). In a young body, this muscle is thick and strong, but as the body ages, it becomes thinner and weaker due to the naturally progressive loss of blood supply. Regardless of age, however, because of the position of the muscle, it is still common for younger people to experience a shoulder injury.
Injury to the rotator cuff causes a burning or stinging pain on the outer shoulder. Many people say that pain and weakness of the shoulder and arm immediately followed a popping sensation after hitting an overhead or a serve. Many wait a few weeks afterwards, but if there is any damage to the shoulder muscles, the symptoms will not go away until the player consults their physician about a recovery plan.
Like the tennis elbow, a tear in the rotator cuff can be healed with proper exercise treatment. Before anyone runs off to do shoulder exercises, however, they should note that first consulting a physician about their shoulders would be best— especially if they are already experiencing pain. Usually, this consists of careful observation by the physician, and an x-ray. Once the check-up is done, and the physician allows you to do rehabilitation exercises, you might want to check out these sites for helpful rehabilitation videos and diagrams.
Many of these exercises are helpful in strengthening the shoulder muscles to prevent the injuries from occurring. Playing tennis will strengthen the front shoulder muscles, but not the back ones, which can cause imbalance, and consequently cause more grief for the shoulders. A well balanced shoulder strengthening routine can also prevent the rotator cuff from getting pinched and cause damage. It is recommended that throwing athletes such as tennis players take 10 minutes of their day to strengthen the shoulder muscles.
Besides shoulder specific exercises and stretches, it would also be wise to incorporate some precautions into the actual play as well. Even those who take the time to strengthen their shoulders can get injured because of improper technique. The best option would be to receive professional instruction to check for a biochemically correct serve and overhead motion. Outside of professional help, checking the form on your own is also advisable; when tossing the ball, or positioning yourself with the ball—avoid having the ball too far to the left. Be sure to stretch before and after your games, and warm up slowly.
Finally, if you ever feel pain, or a burning sensations in your shoulders, stop your game, and ice the area. Simply stopping will not help, and instead will result in a stiff shoulder. Please take care of yourself, and use the RICEN regimen: Reset, Ice, Compress, Elevate of Extremity, and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Whatever path or paths you take, please make sure to consult a professional before doing so.
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