Common tennis knee and foot injuries (& how to avoid them)
Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, with approximately 1 billion fans worldwide and as with most sports, it comes with a significant risk of injury. Many of us are familiar with the damage that playing a lot of tennis can do to your elbow – the infamous “tennis elbow”! But your lower body also undergoes a lot of stress while you’re on the court. Here’s our guide to five of the most common knee and foot injuries from playing tennis and ways to avoid them.
One of the many overuse injuries that regular tennis players are susceptible to, patellar tendonitis is a gradual tearing of the patellar tendon which holds the kneecap in place. It’s often called “jumper’s knee” because it’s particularly common in those whose sport demands lots of jumping. Examples include basketball, volleyball, and tennis. The knee undergoes a tremendous amount of stress whilst playing tennis, especially when playing intensely.
You’ll experience soreness of the knee, especially just below the knee cap, and straightening your leg may be difficult, if not impossible in severe cases.
Another overuse injury that’s associated with tennis is Achilles tendonitis. It’s an inflammation of the Achilles tendon which connects your heel to your calf muscle. This tendon is crucial to playing tennis – it’s called upon every time a player takes a step, and therefore anyone who plays is susceptible to the injury. However, it’s most likely to occur when a person increases the intensity or duration of their workouts suddenly.
Symptoms include general pain of the tendon and stiffness, especially following exercise, sometimes accompanied by swelling of the heel.
An ankle sprain is a tear in one or multiple ligaments of the ankle. The nature of tennis means that players must pivot and change direction very quickly and very often. A game of tennis will involve sprinting from one side of the court to the other repeatedly for perhaps hours at a time. The ankle joint is therefore under immense pressure and in awkward positions, which is a recipe for a sprain.
As well as an obvious pain in the ankle, other symptoms can include bruising, swelling, and tightness.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by trauma or extreme impact to the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia, a band of fibrous tissue which runs down the bottom of your foot, becomes inflamed and walking can become painful as a result. The running and jumping involved in tennis mean that the foot experiences a lot of stress and must absorb a lot of shock with every step. Even the fittest and most experienced athletes have a limit, and plantar fasciitis is likely to develop once that limit is reached.
The most commonly reported symptom is a sharp pain at the bottom of the heel, especially when weight is placed upon it; walking can be extremely painful.
A stress fracture is an overuse injury caused by excessive stress on a bone for long periods of time. As such, avid tennis players are prone to developing this injury given the sheer number of hours they spend sprinting and jumping. Without adequate rest intervals and proper recovery habits, stress fractures are likely to appear, most often in the shin.
Symptoms of a stress fracture are rather subtle and include a dull ache of the affected area, along with weakness and slight swelling in more serious cases.
How to avoid these injuries
Apart from not playing tennis at all, there’s no way to fully protect yourself from getting injured. But there are a number of measures you can take to significantly lower your chances of being hurt.
Warm-ups and cooldowns
It may sound basic and reminiscent of P.E lessons at school, but properly warming up and cooling down before and after your workouts is critical to protecting yourself from injury. Be sure to thoroughly stretch every major muscle group in your body, and pay close attention to your lower legs. Make sure you’re feeling loose before you dive into a game of tennis – tight muscles and joints can significantly increase your risk of injury.
Likewise, after your workout, take the time to stretch and massage your muscles and joints. In fact, it can be soothing to massage your feet and legs by rolling them over a tennis ball (if you’re reading this article, you should have access to one!). Coming to a dead stop after an intense workout will lengthen your recovery time and make you more susceptible to injury the next time you exercise.
Stronger muscles, joints, and bones are more resilient and less prone to injury. Therefore, an excellent way to protect yourself from any tennis-related injury in the long run is to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. As you become stronger and more flexible, you’ll notice that you get injured less frequently and recover from injuries much faster.
Modern science provides some wonderful equipment to help us run faster and jump higher for longer while minimising our risk of injury. If you’re playing tennis regularly – or doing any form of exercise for that matter – correct footwear is paramount to staying injury-free.
You’ll need trainers that support your feet and absorb the brunt of the impact you experience with each step. First and foremost, make sure your trainers are the right size. Secondly, make sure they are the right fit – they should be comfortable and support your arches; you should feel supported but not restrained.
Sometimes, footwear can only do so much, and you may need more support to really protect you from injury. This is where sports orthotics come in. The right insoles will provide additional support and shock absorption, cushioning your feet with every step and leaving you planted and sure-footed. Our very own insoles are made with D3O technology, a special shock-absorption material that we developed with the sole aim of protecting users from injury. It’s been proven to reduce the risk of virtually all lower-body injuries associated with running and other intense sports, including everything we’ve mentioned in this article.
We’re so confident in our insoles that every pair comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Browse our entire collection to find the right insoles for you.