Most Common Tennis Injuries

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on August 26, 2021
4 min read

Like many sports, playing tennis can lead to injuries. Many of these are caused by overuse, not enough muscle strength, training too fast, and sudden movements. Learn the most common tennis injuries and ways to prevent them.

Tennis elbow happens when the muscles on the outside of your arm attached to your elbow become inflamed. You use these muscles to straighten your wrist or bend it backwards. When you overuse them, they become strained. This causes little tears and inflammation, leading to injury.‌

Pain is the main symptom of tennis elbow. This usually happens:‌

  • On the outside of your elbow
  • When you lift something or bend your arm
  • When you twist something like a door knob
  • When you grip something small like a pen
  • When you fully extend your arm

Tennis elbow is an extremely common tennis injury. You are more likely to develop it if you:‌

  • Lead with a backhand tennis stroke
  • Rotate your torso too early
  • Repeatedly extend your wrist on a backhand stroke
  • Have the wrong racquet size and grip

There are some ways to prevent tennis elbow injuries from happening. These include:‌

Improving your technique. If you just started playing tennis, it’s likely that you’ll need to improve your skills. Work with a trainer or take a few tennis lessons to learn the right way to grip your racquet and to serve and return. 

Strengthening your muscles. Resistance training can help build and strengthen the muscles in your arm. When they’re stronger, they can handle the force of movement and resist injury. ‌

Regular warm-ups. Stretching and warming up before you play helps prevent injuries. Spend five to 10 minutes getting the blood and oxygen moving to your muscles. ‌

Getting the right racquet. Using a lightweight racquet or moving up a grip size can put less pressure and stress on your tendons and muscles. This can prevent tennis elbow. 

Shoulder injuries are common in tennis players. These are usually caused by overuse and weak rotator cuff muscles. Your rotator cuff helps keep your shoulder in the socket. If the muscle is weak, it can cause rubbing in the socket. This leads to irritated tissues, inflammation, and pain. ‌

The most common symptom for tennis shoulder injuries is also pain and stiffness. You might have symptoms like:‌

  • Pain when you serve overhead
  • Pain when you lift or use your arms
  • A dropping arm on the side your shoulder hurts
  • Pain on the top of your shoulder

In both recreational and professional tennis, shoulder injuries are the second most common. This is because of the high force and speed needed to overhand serve, smash overhead, and in groundstrokes. This can place stress on the shoulder.

Some of the same practices like warming up and stretching can also help prevent shoulder injuries. You can also:

Do resistance training. Building rotator cuff muscle strength will help you have a stronger shoulder. Try using an exercise band with light resistance and flex and extend the wrist. Do this three to four times a week. ‌

Exercise. Staying in good shape can help you lower your overall risk for injury. Combine your resistance and strength training with cardio exercise in cycling, running, swimming, or other exercise. ‌

Wear a brace. A shoulder brace can help support movement when you play. You should only wear this during a tennis game, not while you sleep or throughout your regular day.

Jumper’s knee is a common tennis injury to the knee. It’s caused by overloading the joint with repeated movements like bending or jumping. The tendon that attaches your knee to your shin becomes strained with the movement and tears, causing injury and pain. ‌

Common symptoms include:‌

  • Tenderness
  • Swelling 
  • Dull, aching knee pain
  • Knee pain when you play 
  • Knee pain while running or walking
  • Weakness in your quad muscles

Tennis can cause different kinds of knee pain because of the side-to-side movement and the repetitive jumping. The force of hitting the ground can cause tendon injury and inflammation. Playing on hard surfaces like the tennis court can also make injury more likely.

You can prevent a jumper's knee by warming up your muscles before you play. You can also:‌

Strengthen your quads. Stronger quad muscles on the front of your thigh help stabilize your knee. Try adding squats, lunges, or leg raises to your exercise program.‌

Stretch. Stretching before you play is one of the best ways to prevent jumper's knee. Make sure to include stretches for your hamstrings on the back of your thighs, quads on the front of your thighs, and your calf muscles. 

The best way to prevent tennis injuries is through building and caring for your muscles and improving your technique. If you need help, talk to a trainer or a tennis coach about a program.