Repetitive strain on the tendons of the elbow can result in microtears and inflammation, known as tennis elbow. Preventing tennis elbow in athletes requires a combination of proper technique, equipment, and conditioning. If you have suffered from tennis elbow in the past or are looking to avoid future issues, be sure to follow our recommended GlobMed suggestions for preventing tennis elbow and other conditions before they become a real problem.
1. Warm Up And Stretch
A proper warm-up routine and stretching can help to prepare the muscles and tendons in the forearm and wrist for the physical demands of tennis or any other sport that involves repetitive wrist and forearm movements. Start with a light warmup and gradually increase the intensity of your exercises to avoid injury. Here are a few exercises that you might incorporate in your warmup as part of preventative measures for tennis elbow:
- Wrist Curls: Hold a lightweight dumbbell in your hand and sit with your forearm resting on a table or bench. Slowly curl your wrist up towards your body and then slowly lower it back down. Do 10-15 repetitions with each arm.
- Arm Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms straight out to the sides, parallel to the ground. Make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles. Reverse direction after 10-15 repetitions.
- Forearm Stretches: Extend your arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers towards your wrist until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat with the other arm.
- Shoulder Rolls: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion, and then reverse the motion to roll them backward. Do 10-15 repetitions in each direction.
2. Use Proper Technique
One of the most important ways to prevent tennis elbow is to use proper technique when performing sports or other activities that involve repetitive arm motions.
In tennis, for example, using proper grip and technique and form when hitting a tennis ball can reduce the amount of stress placed on the tendons in the elbow. Athletes should work with a coach to ensure they are using proper technique and form.
3. Use Proper Equipment
Using equipment that is properly fitted and suited to the activity can help to reduce the risk of injury. For example, in tennis, using a racket with a larger sweet spot can help to reduce the impact on the elbow.
The size and type of grip on the tennis racket can also impact the amount of stress placed on the tendons in the elbow. Athletes should use a grip that feels comfortable and fits their hand size. A grip that is too small can increase stress on the tendons, while a grip that is too large can cause the athlete to grip the racket more tightly, which can also increase stress on the tendons.
4. Strengthen The Forearm Muscles
Strengthening the forearm muscles can help to improve grip strength and reduce the risk of developing tennis elbow. Exercises such as those mentioned in the warmup can help to strengthen these muscles. Though be sure to seek the help of an expert if you are unsure of how to properly perform the exercises without risking injury.
Cross-training is a training method that involves practising multiple sports or types of exercise to improve overall fitness and performance. It is a way to vary your training routine and challenge your body in different ways.
The idea behind cross-training is that by practising different activities, you can work different muscle groups and develop a well-rounded level of fitness. For example, a runner may also include strength training or yoga to improve their balance and flexibility, while a swimmer may incorporate cycling or weightlifting to improve their upper body strength.
Cross-training can help prevent injuries that can occur from repetitive motions associated with a single activity. By varying the types of exercises and movements, cross-training can help strengthen different muscle groups, improve coordination and balance, and reduce the risk of injury. Cross-training can help to prevent tennis elbow by reducing the amount of stress placed on the tendons in the elbow while maintaining overall fitness.
6. Maintain Overall Fitness And Flexibility
Maintaining overall fitness and flexibility can help to reduce the risk of injury by improving muscle and joint function. Regular exercises, such as strength training and stretching, can help to improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of developing tennis elbow. Maintaining good health can also help your body heal faster in the event that you do develop tennis elbow.
7. Take Breaks
Taking regular breaks during activities that involve repetitive arm motions can help to reduce the risk of developing tennis elbow. For example, in tennis, taking breaks between games or sets can give the elbow a chance to rest and recover. Having regular rest days and varying activity throughout the week can allow your muscles and tendons adequate time to recover.
Is It Possible To Prevent Tennis Elbow?
Preventing tennis elbow requires a multifaceted approach that involves proper technique, equipment, conditioning, and cross-training. Warm-up exercises, such as wrist curls, arm circles, forearm stretches, and shoulder rolls, can help prepare the muscles and tendons for physical activity. Using proper technique and equipment, such as a racket with a larger sweet spot or a grip that fits the athlete's hand size, can reduce stress on the tendons in the elbow.
Strengthening the forearm muscles, cross-training, maintaining overall fitness and taking regular breaks can reduce the risk of developing injuries. By implementing these preventative measures, athletes can continue to participate in their chosen sports or activities while reducing the risk of developing tennis elbow.