Tuning your tennis shoulder

The temperatures have plummeted and rain is predicted so we must be nearing one of the highlights of the British summer: Wimbledon. As the oldest and most prestigious of the Grand Slams looms, it’s that time of year when even amateur tennis enthusiasts dust off their rackets and a great opportunity to highlight one of the most common injuries suffered in the sport and how you can prevent it.

Treating tennis shoulder

Tennis shoulder is a common, painful injury, which largely occurs due to repetitive overuse of the shoulder. Just like cricket, tennis players use a lot of overhead arm movements; causing the joint and underlying muscles to eventually loosen, tear or – in more severe cases – come away from the socket completely.

Understanding tennis shoulder

The shoulder is by far the most flexible joint within the body. It’s designed to allow a wide range of different movements, while maintaining good stability. However, if you push the joint too far in any direction, it has the possibility to irritate any of the surrounding muscles and tendons.

Out of the entire structure of the shoulder, the rotator cuff tends to be the most susceptible to injury. Some experts argue this is because the rotator cuff isn’t able to adapt quickly enough to any sudden changes. So, with this theory, if you’re just starting out in the world of tennis, you’re at a higher risk of developing shoulder-related injuries.

Even seasoned tennis players are at a high risk of injury. Many take time off during the winter months then, as the weather warms up, returns to their favourite sport. As the shoulder hasn’t been used for months, it’s simply unprepared for the pressure that it’s about to be placed under and injury becomes a high possibility.

Is tennis shoulder preventable?

If you’re looking to return to tennis or take it up for the first time, one of the best pieces of advice is to make sure you’re properly warmed up. This doesn’t just mean doing a series of stretches before playing, it means starting to prepare for the game before the season actually commences.

Proper training will help you expose the shoulder to the movements required within a tennis game, over a gradual period. This alone will make a massive difference to your tennis shoulder risk level. The longer you can prepare the shoulder before you start playing properly, the lower your risk will be.

Right before you play, a proper warm-up will also help. This should ultimately include some of the movements you’ll be performing, such as an overhead serve. You’ll also want to focus on flexibility training of the legs, spine, arms and shoulders.
Similarly, a cool down is just as important as the warm-up. This will also greatly reduce the amount of aching you experience the day after.

Building up your back and shoulder muscles will also help to lower your risk of injury. The more stable and strong you can make the shoulder, the less prone it will be to injury.

Overall, due to how repetitive tennis shoulder movements can be, it’s impossible to completely prevent the risk of injury. However, the above advice will help you minimise your chances of developing tennis shoulder. If you do experience any pain in the shoulder, it’s imperative you get it looked at right away. The earlier you get the problem treated, the easier it will be to rectify.