With more people starting to exercise more intensely at a younger age, repetitive motion injuries are on the rise. This includes tennis and golfer’s elbow, two conditions that occur as a direct result of repetitive motion, generally done incorrectly over time.
Both of these conditions involve the tendons surrounding the elbow joint, and both range from soreness and swelling in the tendon to the tendon actually tearing away from the bone. Golfer’s elbow pain is generally felt on the inside of the elbow, while tennis elbow pain is experienced on the outside. Regardless of severity, tennis and golfer’s elbow are a result of poor swing mechanics and tendon aggravation and can be prevented by following some basic guidelines.
The first thing to do is to make sure your swing is correct. You can do this by enlisting the help of a course’s golf pro. It never hurts to take a lesson, no matter how long you have been playing. Tiger Woods has completely dismantled and reconstructed his golf swing three times in his professional career, as have other golfers. If you are not able to get a lesson with a golf pro, take a look online to see what a proper swing looks like, focusing your search on prevention of golfer’s elbow.
Next, check your equipment and make sure it fits. Clubs that may have worked when you started golfing may be too heavy, too light, too long, or too short now. The goal is equipment that is just right. You don’t want to shorten your swing to accommodate clubs that are too long, or lengthen it to stretch for the ball. You should be able to get good advice from employees at a golf store. There are also tutorials online if you’d like to try to determine the fit for yourself with the gear you currently have. Either way, properly fitted equipment, including shoes, is essential to preventing injury.
For Tennis Players
As with golf, make sure you aren’t causing injury with an improper swing. Most tennis elbow injury comes from the backhand stroke, so have a coach or another player evaluate your approach to this shot. Keep your wrists straight as you progress through your game.
Equipment is important in tennis as well. Tennis racquets vary widely, from grip size and head tension to weight and length. Whether you are a beginner or have played for many years, it is imperative that you re-evaluate your equipment as you progress in skill and make changes when needed.
The most important thing to remember in prevention of golfer’s and tennis elbow is to listen to your body. If you feel sharp pain or increasing soreness in your elbow (or anywhere, for that matter), stop and take some time off. Because this is a repetitive stress injury exacerbated by improper mechanics, sometimes taking time off to take a lesson and rest the affected area is the difference between a minor and major injury. Icing the affected area and taking over-the-counter analgesics aimed at reducing inflammation can also help.
You can also improve the stability of the tendon by working the surrounding muscles. The strengthening exercises for golfer’s and tennis elbow are slightly different. One uses flexion exercises while the other uses extension exercises. Both conditions benefit greatly from proper warm-up and cool-down, so don’t forget that part of your activity.
Finally, many golfers and tennis players utilize braces to help maintain correct position and offer support. This is a good preventative measure, and basic braces are readily available even in grocery stores. The more serious golf and tennis player should talk with their doctor to see what options there are for maximal support. Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are not inevitable, and taking a few precautionary measures can help prevent injury and too much time off your game.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; what steps do you take to maintain healthy joints and tendons?
Image by K P via Flickr