As with all overhead throwing athletes, injuries to the shoulder joint in tennis players are common place. A tennis player on average will serve anywhere between 50 to 150 times per match. Professional players serve at speeds in excess of 125 miles per hour generating significant peak impact forces on the shoulder joint. Whilst there are a number of factors required for healthy shoulder mechanics, one of the most important muscle groups at play are the rotator cuff muscles which serve to stabilise and rotate the joint during the service action. Due to the high demands placed on this muscle group occasionally the rotator cuff tendon (the part that attaches the muscle to the bone) can become over strained and injured.
Tennis players will typically complain of pain in the front or back of the shoulder aggravated by overhead movement (serving & smashing), in some cases this pain may refer down into the upper arm on the affected side. In more severe cases of rotator cuff tendinopathy groundstrokes can be painful particularly during the follow through phase.
Treatment of Rotator Cuff tendinopathy usually involves a period of rest or modified play whilst addressing any factors that may have caused or predisposed the player to developing the condition. Hands on manual therapy to address any muscle tightness or joint stiffness may be used in combination with other treatment modalities (dry needling, Laser, heat therapy) to help reduce pain and aid healing. The cornerstone of any rotator cuff tendinopathy program will involve progressive strengthening exercises to address any weakness in the muscles and tendons around the shoulder helping to prevent future reoccurrence.