NAME: Venus Williams
INJURY: Tendinitis of both wrists
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Basketball: Donyell Marshall, Golden State Warriors; Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks; Football: Gabe Wilkins, Green Bay Packers; Baseball: Ken Hill, Anaheim Angels
Williams developed tendinitis in both wrists, but it is worse in the left wrist. The injury has forced her to withdraw from three major events: the Australian Open in January, the State Farm Classic in February, and the Ericsson Open (formerly the Lipton Open) in late March. Although not entirely related, her father has stated that she is considering retiring to pursue her education and to focus on her other business interests.
Nineteen-year-old Venus Williams is one of the great young stars of the game, finishing last year at No. 3 in the Women's Tennis Association rankings. She has already amassed $4.6 million in career earnings, not including her endorsements. In addition to her singles career, Venus and her sister Serena make up one of the world's top doubles teams.
WHAT IS TENDINITIS?
Tendinitis of the wrist is inflammation of the tendons surrounding the wrist that control the ability of the wrist to move. Tendinitis develops through overuse of the hands and wrists. It is common for tennis players to get tendinitis of the wrists because they hold a racquet and put strain on their wrists with every stroke. Many tennis players hit backhands, and sometimes forehands, with both hands, and the non-dominant hand is responsible for throwing the ball up. These actions put constant strain on the wrists and can lead to repetitive strain injuries. An athlete might describe pain every time she uses her wrist -- both during activity and while putting stress on it such as carrying a bag or doing push-ups. The injury can be worsened by faulty technique or extreme overuse.
The injury is diagnosed through clinical exam. Physicians can take an X-ray to eliminate the possibility of a bone problem and can do an MRI, which will show the inflammation. However, these exams are usually not necessary.
The injury cannot be prevented. However, it is not serious and is essentially caused by repetitive strain. Stretching and flexibility exercises help, and treating early symptoms using ice, moist heat, and anti-inflammatories can also decrease the odds of the condition worsening. For Williams, as long as she continues to play tennis, she is at high risk to suffer the injury again.
The recovery period for this type of injury is usually 6-8 weeks. For the first 3-6 weeks, she would rest the wrists, ice them, and take the medications. After that she could begin exercises to gain strength and flexibility in the wrists.
She should suffer no effects once she returns to the game if the injury is given time to heal completely. Of course, she may be rusty for days or weeks after she returns, but that is not a direct result of the injury. If the injury was caused by faulty technique and she does not fix the fault, then she is at high risk for the injury to recur the next time she overuses the muscles to the same extent. She should also try to prevent extreme overuse of her wrists.