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Captain's Tips of the Week: Terminating Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a problem of wear and tear on the tendon that starts on the outside of the elbow.
Captain's Tips of the week USTA.com’s new special feature for USTA League Captains. Each week we will give you a list of helpful pointers geared towards you, the USTA League Captains. Ranging from on-court strategy to mental preparation, these tips will jumpstart your team towards a successful season.

This week, we focus on an injury so common in tennis, the malady of "lateral epicondylitis" is more commonly known by most athletes today as "tennis elbow." Here are a few helpful hints about not only combating the condition - based on the severity of the affliction - but some preventative suggestions you and your players can take as well.

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Prevention
  • Tennis elbow prevention is based on developing sound technique and building strength and flexibility in the muscles of the forearm. Watch closely at the way your players strike the ball. In terms of technique, one of things to focus on is the wrist position at the point of ball contact. The hand and wrist should be in line with the forearm, and not flexed or extended, to allow the muscles to best handle the forces that are generated.
  • Players can get tennis elbow due to faulty technique by hitting backhands with the wrist in a weak position. Make sure that you and your players are using a proper grip, with the knuckle of the index finger on the top surface of handle, if one-handed. For the double-handed shot, give enough support to the dominant hand with the opposite hand. Make absolutely certain you do not use a "wristy" shot. The effort must come by taking the racket back and using the core, followed by the shoulder muscles. This must be smooth and not jerky.
  • Checking the forward swing of your forehand and not following through all the way causes tremendous strain on the extensor muscles and tendons of the elbow. Make sure to follow through ALL the way around the body. Again, all of the power and control comes from the core muscles and not from "wristing" the shot.
Treatment
  • For active tennis elbow, you do need to take a holiday to allow for healing. Playing through it will only prolong the condition. A fully inflamed case of tennis elbow needs rest. There is no such thing as playing through tendon inflammation - your players do not need to be heroes.
  • After prolonged rest, conduct stretching and strengthening exercises with elastic bands, which are the least traumatic. They come in different resistances. The process is slow and arduous, but in the end it’s the only effective solution. Checking in with a strength and conditioning expert to determine the most effective exercises is a wise route to take.
  • *Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
 

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