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Protect your elbows during summer sports

Mixed Doubles Tennis match

Popular summertime activities include tennis and golf – so it’s no surprise that popular summertime injuries include tennis and golfer’s elbow!

These elbow injuries can occur following an increase in activity or start of a new activity that involves repetitive gripping and use of the wrist. So, if you’ve been inspired to pick up a racket or club, learn more about how to avoid these elbow ailments.

Tennis versus golf

Tennis elbow typically an overuse injury from excessive, quick or repetitive movement of the wrist (especially bending/extending the wrist back or turning the hand). Golfer’s elbow also occurs with wrist movement but in the opposite direction (curling or flexing the wrist). This leads to inflammation from micro trauma of the tendons that attach to the elbow. While named for sport-related injuries, these conditions may result from work-related activities, including gardening.

Symptoms are typically gradual, but can occur suddenly with an acute injury.

What to look for?

  • Tenderness over the outside of the elbow (tennis elbow) or the inside of the elbow (golfer’s elbow) that may radiate into the forearm.
  • Pain may be: achy, sharp, or stabbing
  • Weakness and decreased endurance of wrist movement and gripping. This can lead to difficulty with activities involving carrying, lifting, using keys, opening jars.

What can help?

Try to rest and avoid activities that aggravate the injury. But it’s important to stay active in other ways. Complete rest should be avoided as it may lead to decreases in muscle strength and endurance as well as decreasing blood supply to injured tissues, which can slow healing.

Pain will determine what activities are appropriate: if it hurts don’t do it!

Allow for healing time before resuming any aggravating activities to ensure the muscles and tendons are healthy and able to withstand stress. So, if your last 18 holes upset your elbow, be sure to give it some time before hitting the tee blocks.

Through a gradual return to activities, your muscles will build strength and endurance required for daily activities. A specific stretching and strengthening program for forearm muscles can prepare for return to sport/leisure. Talk to your health-care provider or physiotherapist.

Final Tip:

A proper warm-up before activity will prepare your muscles for use and decrease the risk of future injury.


About the author

Sara Cheung

Sara Cheung is a physiotherapist.

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