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A bent elbow with medical tape strapped to it.

Can Anyone Get Tennis Elbow?

11/12/2014, 6:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Learn how to spot the symptoms of tennis elbow.


Like many unfortunate things in life, tennis elbow is caused by a lack of balance.

Drink too much beer without exercising?

You’re going to need bigger pants.

Spend too much time at the hockey rink instead of at home?

You’re going to need a comfortable couch.

You get the idea. Tennis elbow is a condition that’s caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons surrounding the elbow. It’s normally reserved for tennis players because it’s a common injury with tennis players because they’re forced to repeat the same motion over and over again with the same arm.

The truth is that anyone can get tennis elbow. Other sports such as hockey and soccer, however, are more dynamic, they require various movements with different limbs in different directions. 

1. The Cause

Swinging a racquet once creates stress on the shoulder, the forearm and the hand muscles. With multiple swings, the stress is also multiplied. The tendons attached to the bony part of the elbow, the tissue that doesn’t have the support of thick muscle or bone behind it, will eventually suffer. Your forearm muscles extend through your wrist and your shoulder, and your forearm tendons attach the muscle to the bone.

So, when you execute a downstroke or shoot a puck or throw a baseball, these tendons and muscles stabilize your wrist when your elbow is straight. 

2. The Symptoms

While anyone who plays tennis, golf, baseball or hockey can get tennis elbow, it can also occur in physically fit people who use their arms or hands for work. Lifting equipment repeatedly or even using tools can cause stress from the hands and into the elbow. 

The problem is it’s often difficult to diagnose unless you’re an avid tennis player on the lookout.

No matter what your game is, be mindful of:

  • slowly increasing pain around the elbow
  • pain throughout the forearm when shaking hands or opening jars
  • flexing your forearm to stabilize the wrist causes a dull, uncomfortable ache

3. The Treatment

Tennis elbow is an athletic injury. Cutting back on the activity is the first step to take. If symptoms persist, than ice and anti-inflammatories will help. If you still experience pain, then it’s time to visit a physiotherapist. 

One treatment that’s gaining popularity is using a counterforce brace to apply pressure to the muscles and ease the stress on the elbow. According to the Wall Street Journal, pressure on the muscles below the elbow can help sufferers of golf elbow, who experience pain on the inside of the elbow, and tennis players who experience pain on the outside of the elbow.

These braces are often just simple straps of material placed a few inches below the elbow, toward the wrist. Some styles of the brace actually cover the entire elbow, with a tightening device below the elbow to properly direct pressure on the right area. Most of the straps cost less than $20.00, and they don’t restrict movement, so they’re easy to try.

4. The Precaution

The bad news is that for tennis players, short of putting the racquet down for good, there’s a risk of overuse, the primary cause of tennis elbow. Warming up your muscles and joints properly before a match can help, as will keeping your upper body strong and toned. Try initiating your swing from your core to provide support for the jerky motion of the swing. 

Playing through pain is a good ol’ Canadian trait that might be admirable, but it’s often misguided. Tennis elbow will get worse if you try to power through it, so make sure you take the proper precautions so you can get back on the court as quickly as possible.


photo credit: RLHyde via photopin cc

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