Are you a tennis player who is not sure whether or not it’s a good idea to continue to play through your tennis elbow injury?
Even if you are willing to be extremely careful and not play too many games, should you just keep playing and ignore your pain?
What about if you take time away from the court, how should you resume playing after a long absence and once your tennis elbow pain has diminished?
These are all great questions which I will address in this article but first consider
How Does Tennis Elbow Develop in Tennis Players?
Tennis is a game that is prone to injuries.
Turf toe, ankle strains, knee tendonitis, rotator cuff problems and of course tennis elbow.
These types of injuries usually start to occur as your time on the court and number of times you play a week increases.
You could walk into any tennis facility and take a quick poll among the players and ask them do know they anyone who has had tennis elbow?
If I was a betting man, which I am not, chances are that at least half of them will tell you yes.
That’s because the statistics show that around 50 percent of all tennis players will experience some degree of tennis elbow during their playing time.
As with most cases, it starts out just as a simple mild case but can quickly jump to a severe case in a short period of time, especially if your time on the court increases.
Mild tennis elbow is when you experience a little pain while playing tennis but then it goes away when you stop and head home.
More severe cases of tennis elbow is when you are experiencing outer elbow pain on a daily basis, from morning till night.
Severe tennis elbow will most likely have you sitting on the sidelines watching your friends and colleagues play.
For the simple fact that even holding a coffee mug or opening the door causes extreme pain in your elbow.
As for tennis elbow and how it develops, a small little tear opens up your extensor tendon.
Your extensor tendon attaches your forearm extensor muscles to your elbow at the lateral epicondyle.
The pain in your elbow increases when performing any kind of action or movement where you extend your wrist, usually while holding or gripping down tightly on an object.
For example, gripping down on your tennis racquet and then making contact with the ball.
Tennis elbow usually manifests faster in tennis players that have poor backhand strokes.
The reason for this is that if you do not properly follow through with your backhand(especially one-handed backhands), you are putting severe strain and pressure on your extensor muscle and tendon.
When you stop your racquet short, this requires an extreme amount force on your forearm extensors and muscles, whereas when you follow through properly, other muscles are able to absorb some of the strain.
Some else to keep in mind, is that if your eyesight is not what it was, then there is a good chance that you are not hitting the ball in the centre of the racquet(aka the “sweet spot”).
Making contact with the ball off centre, causes greater vibration which gets sent up your forearm and into your elbow.
Another common mistake that tennis players make and can contribute to your tennis elbow misery is playing with heavy balls.
If you play in wet conditions, the ball naturally soaks up the water.
As the balls soak up more and more water, they get heavier and heavier.
This requires you to hit the ball harder and harder.
So if you put all these 3 factors together:
- Poor technique
- Bad eyesight and hand eye coordination
- Heavy, wet balls
It should be no surprise that you have tennis elbow.
Seasoned tennis players should know that the more you play tennis, the higher your risk and chances are of developing tennis elbow or other injuries.
Constantly gripping the racquet combined with poor form can be a recipe for disaster.
It’s not uncommon for tennis players to play three or more times a week, playing three set matches.
The muscles and tissues in your body can only take so much and eventually your forearm muscles and tendons have had enough and this is when you start to experience pain on the outer part of your elbow.
Here are some great tips on tennis elbow injuries from the International Tennis Federation.
But should you and can you continue to play tennis even if you have tennis elbow?
This is a question that confuses many players and unless you are educated about your injury, may end up going through a viscous circle of pain – no pain – pain again, throughout your entire playing career.
I could write for hours on this topic alone but the “coles notes” of what you really need to do …
Boils down to these 5 factors:
1. How Does Your Affected Arm Feel When You Are Playing?
When you are playing a game, how does your elbow feel when you swing the racquet and make contact with the ball.
Don’t focus how your elbow feels before or after the match, really think about how it feels during the match.
The morning after the match, it is absolutely normal to experience a little stiffness and soreness.
You may feel an increase in elbow pain when you goto open your fridge.
It’s more about how your elbow feels when you are in a game situation that matters the most.
If your elbow pain is bearable and you can stand the pain, then no big deal.
But if your elbow noticeably increases as the match goes on, then you really should stop immediately and head to the changing room.
Continuing to play through your pain will only make matters worse and extend the amount of time it takes your elbow to fully heal.
Ever wonder why Pro tennis players hardly ever suffer from tennis elbow? Read this article that explains 3 reasons why.
2. How Severe is your Tennis Elbow Injury?
In order to measure this, you need to evaluate how much pain you are in when you are doing everyday tasks around the house or how it affects your daily routine.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with tennis elbow and had an MRI which revealed a major tear in your extensor tendon, then you are best advised to hang up your tennis racquet for a while.
Even if your scan does not reveal a large tear, you still may have severe symptoms that interfere with even the most basic daily tasks and of course impact your tennis game.
If you’ve noticed that your grip on your tennis racquet is not what it used to be or your ground stroke is not as powerful as it once was, then this is a sign to take time off and rest.
Taking anti-inflammatory pills or pain medication everyday just to step foot on the court is something you really shouldn’t do.
No good can come from it.
In the most severe of tennis elbow cases, you may have to wait up to 2 months to return to normal play and participation levels.
But if you are suffering from a simple “flare-up”, then you could be back playing in a matter of weeks, especially if you are following a Doctor Approved Tennis Elbow Home Treatment Program.
3. Monitor your playing time.
If it’s an absolute must and you need to be on the court, whether it’s for a tournament or doubles play, don’t go all out and try to be a superhero!
It’s time to be smart. Play one set instead of three. Play every other day instead of everyday. Take time to rest.
I’m not telling you to completely stop playing tennis during your recovery period.
To be honest, the worst thing you should do is immobilize your arm altogether.
The small micro tear in your extensor tendon does not repair itself when you are resting.
The combination of light tennis play, avoiding activities that cause your injury to flare up, and starting a home treatment program is the best recipe for a complete recovery from tennis elbow.
You have to be committed to your recovery.
Far too many people take 2-3 weeks off and then return to playing.
When they play for 20 minutes and their elbow pain comes back just like before, they feel defeated and think that there is no way they can ever beat tennis elbow.
Don’t let this type of thinking take hold of you and mess with your head.
For people who want to continue playing tennis with tennis elbow, keep these 3 things in mind:
- Take extra time to warm up.
- Limit the amount of time you spend on the court. As I said, think smart instead of superhero.
- Avoid playing over consecutive days.
If you’ve take a week or two off and would really like to get back on the court to test out your arm, then go for it.
But be prepared that you still may have some pain and discomfort.
If your arm really hurts, then simply stop and head back home.
4. What Is More Important – Playing or Complete Recovery?
This is the dilemma that faces every player with tennis elbow.
Do you want to recover as quickly as possible or do you need to continue playing knowing that it can impact your recovery time.
In a perfect world, you can have both but unfortunately, this doesn’t work to well for tennis elbow injuries.
It really boils down to what you want.
For some people they simply can’t think of being away from the court.
So in this case, you need to able to deal with the consequences.
You most likely always have a little elbow pain but is it really that bad?
Or really dig down deep, commit to recovery and stay away from the court until your elbow strength is back to where it was before your injury.
From I have heard and seen with my own eyes is that individuals who continue to play while following a self-treatment program usually have the best outcomes.
You might think that this goes against common knowledge but you really need to trust me on this.
I can’t stress enough that taking time off and totally “babying your arm”, especially by wearing an elbow brace and not using your affected arm at all WILL definitely make your tennis elbow condition worse.
5. Be Aware of Dangerous Activities That Can Cause Tennis Elbow Re-Injury.
Always being conscious off the court of things that can aggravate your elbow will only help you spend more time playing on the court.
If you get sucked into constantly icing your arm, popping pills, wearing elbow straps and opting for cortisone shots, then you will most likely never fully recover.
These are all “traditional treatment” methods that people think work for tennis elbow but I can tell from personal experience that are a complete waste of energy and time.
They are nothing more than “smoke and mirrors”!
If your tennis elbow injury is not severe and the tear in your extensor tendon does not require surgery, then your best chances of completely overcoming tennis elbow while still playing tennis combined with a home treatment system are good.
The key is to continue playing and follow/implement a set of strengthening exercises for tennis elbow.
But the secret to a fast recovery is to know exactly which exercises make your elbow stronger and ones that will only aggravate it and make things worse.
To be brutally honest, there are really only five that you should focus on.
The reason for this is because these have been proven over and over again to be the most effective when it comes to thickening and strengthening your damaged and torn extensor tendon.
Check out this short video presentation that reveals the five steps that will allow you to continue playing tennis as you recover.
Don’t you thing you’ve had enough of your pain and suffering?
Isn’t it time you learned how to properly self treat and cure your tennis elbow at home?
Take action today and you’ll be acing your opponent in no time at all – elbow pain free!