Ace Those Spring Tennis Injuries

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

TennisWhether you just got the urge this spring or have played for years, playing tennis is a great way to have fun and keep fit, and Houston Tennis Connection is a great place to start lessons, find a tennis partner, or join a league. It is important to learn the right way to play, because the wrong techniques can lead to tennis injuries that can cut your career short in a hurry.

You may have heard that tennis elbow and shoulder problems are common, but your feet and legs are particularly susceptible to stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, Achilles tendon rupture, and muscle strains. We want to explain these three injuries and give you some tips for preventing them.

Tennis injuries occur more often in beginning players, and that can be attributed to our tendency to go hard and fast when starting new activities. You’re excited and eager to get out and try something, and then you overdo it. Your muscles tire out too quickly because they are not conditioned for this amount of work.

Tired muscles can’t absorb the trauma of your steps, so it can create a situation where you have one of two common ruptures of the muscle. The first is of a very small muscle and tendon buried within the length of the gastrocnemius and Achilles tendon complex called the plantaris. When it ruptures, you feel as though someone has shot you in the calf with a rifle and feel a pop in the back of the calf. The recovery from this is quite simple, though, as you have not ruptured the main Achilles tendon and it is a matter of the tissues quieting down for a few weeks with physical therapy and conservative activities.

In the case of the total rupture of the Achilles tendon, it is now standard in the medical world to treat this with open surgical repair in order to provide adequate and strength in the future. Recovery from this is quite involved, lasting from 6 to 12 weeks to regain any true tensile strength in the muscle-tendon complex.

Lastly, when tired muscles can’t absorb the trauma of your steps, the force is transferred directly to the bones. They are not strong enough to withstand the pressure, and small but painful cracks can develop in the surface of your leg, ankle, or foot bones.

How can you prevent these stress fractures? First, start slowly—maybe just 1 or 2 games your first outing. Work on strengthening your muscles, and eat foods that will help your bones grow strong. Try to find a court that isn’t hard cement or asphalt. One more thing: make sure you have shoes appropriate for tennis, with enough support for your arch and cushioning for your heel, and make sure they fit properly.

As for muscle strains, they usually happen when your muscles are not warmed up, and then you do sudden or jerky moves that stresses and pulls them. Always spend 5 – 10 minutes warming up first: walk, jog in place, do a few jumping jacks or a few minutes on a stationary bike, and follow with some dynamic stretches to loosen the muscles and get them ready for activity. Don’t forget to stretch out after you finish playing, too.

If the worst happens, and you end up with painful feet or legs, help is nearby in Houston, TX at Parker Foot & Ankle. Call us at (281) 497-2850 or contact us online to schedule your visit. You’ll “love” the care you get from our “ace” foot care team!

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