Study Questions Support Bands for Tennis Elbow
Nov. 17, 1999 (Atlanta) -- A new study finds no 'support' for the use of
forearm support bands in tennis players to reduce muscle fatigue, which is
thought to be a contributing factor in developing tennis elbow. In fact, the
researchers found that wearing these devices actually increased fatigue after
an exercise session.
The study, which appears in the latest issue of The Journal of Orthopedic
and Sports Physical Therapy, tested the muscle response of 50 healthy men
and women before and after about 10 minutes of strenuous exercise, which
included wrist extensions using a dumbbell. The subjects were tested both with
and without forearm support bands.
The researchers measured muscle fatigue by looking at how much force study
subjects exerted in extending their wrists, as well as the force of their grip
-- and by electromyography, a test that measures muscle contractions after
electrical stimulation to determine nerve and muscle function.
The results indicate forearm supports significantly affect muscle strength
-- and not in a positive manner. In fact, peak grip strength dropped 18% after
the exercise session when subjects weren't wearing a forearm support band, but
even more -- 28% -- when they did. Peak strength during wrist extension was
similarly affected: dropping 15% without the forearm support band and 26% with
it. The electromyography found a 10% drop in power after exercise, whether the
forearm support band was worn or not.
The researchers found the results surprising, primarily because clinicians
have typically thought forearm support bands decrease muscle fatigue by
limiting the amount of work the muscles must perform. But the authors of this
study suggest there may be a good reason why just the opposite seems to be the
case. Overworked muscles excrete waste products, which cause a drop in
performance. And it's more difficult for the body to get rid of these waste
products when muscles are compressed -- such as they would be inside of a
Plus, when wearing the forearm support band, many more subjects complained
of burning pain, which could have led to a general loss in motivation.
For tennis players and others suffering from tennis elbow, the real question
is: what does it all mean? Do forearm supports work? Gail Freidhoff, a physical
therapist and sports medicine specialist at University of Kentucky Sports
Medicine in Lexington, says yes -- at least in her experience.
"The one thing I have found with the [forearm support band] ... is that
patients can do the activity that causes them pain," she tells WebMD.
"I have not had patients complain of the arm fatiguing or complain of not
being able to do their activity, or a loss of strength."
In fact, Freidhoff says in her 17 years as a physical therapist she
remembers only one patient with tennis elbow from actually playing tennis who
had so little success with a brace that surgery was needed to correct the