How to Rehab Tennis Shoulder Injuries

The Australian Open is in full swing, bringing spectators from all over the world to Melbourne Park so they can witness Tennis greats battle it out. Competitors have pushed themselves to their limits, perfecting their skills and fitness to be the best of the very best.

Tennis, just like most sports, is physically demanding and can take a toll on the human body, particularly the shoulders and upper limb. Repetitive movements such as hitting a high-speed ball back to the opponent puts enormous stress on a structurally disadvantaged area of the body. In fact, overuse or regular trauma can lead to rotator cuff tendonopathy, and sometimes impingement of the bursa (a fluid-filled sac that cushions the bone and soft tissue) leading to inflammation and pain.

Of course, the injuries that tennis players experience aren’t just limited to the shoulders! As manual therapists, we see a large number of forearm and wrist injuries too. One well known condition is tennis elbow, which we see affect the outer part of the elbow and results from overuse of the forearm extensor muscles. Circle around to the inner elbow and the attachment of the forearm flexor muscles, and you’ll find another common overuse injury, called golfer’s elbow.

Shoulder, wrist and other injuries don’t discriminate either, which means even if you don’t play tennis, it’s likely you’ve experienced a shoulder injury at some stage in your life! Weightlifting, swimming and incorrect lifting or moving of objects can result in shoulder injuries.

So, ready for the good news? These injuries are very much preventable, manageable and treatable.

Here are some simple rehab exercises to get your shoulders back into fighting shape, or reduce the risk of potential injury in the future:

*Try to perform these exercises 2-3 times a week

Doorway Pec Stretch:

This is a great mobility exercise that simply requires an open doorway. Gentle stretching is often one of the first steps in injury prevention and rehabilitation.

  • Spread your arms out to the side, gripping the doorway with each hand below or at shoulder height
  • Lean forward until you feel a light stretch
  • Maintain a straight back as you lean, shifting weight onto your toes
  • Once you feel the stretch at the front of your shoulder, hold for 60 seconds or until you feel the stretch begin to ease

Reverse Flys:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent, back straight and bend forward at the waist
  • Using your bodyweight or a light weight in each hand, bring your arms back raising them away from your body
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the back, while maintaining a soft bend to the elbow the whole time
  • Return to the starting position
  • Complete 3 sets of 10

Standing Row:

For this technique, you will need a theraband

  • Loop a theraband around a stable object such as a doorknob or the leg of a table
  • Hold the band out in front of you with your arm straight, ensuring there is tension in the band
  • Slowly row your arm towards you, pulling your elbow straight back as if you’re squeezing an orange under your armpit, and then return to starting position
  • Switch arm and repeat
  • Complete 3 sets of 8

External Rotation, Side-lying: Can be done with or without a small dumbbell

  • Lying down on a flat surface, cradle your head with the bottom arm
  • Bend your elbow of the other arm 90° and rest the elbow on your side
  • Slowly raise your arm or weight vertically toward the ceiling and hold for a few seconds
  • Lower the arm back to the starting position
  • Complete 3 sets of 8

Try these 2-3x per week and if you’re still experiencing issues or want a more personalised rehab program get in touch with one of our trusted practitioners.

Dr. Lauren Cosson

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