The 2018 U.S. Tennis Association’s Washington State Open Tennis, which hosted more than 700 tennis players at the prestigious Seattle Tennis Club, was the first year that NW Sports Rehab provided sports medicine support and sports recovery services for the competitors. Even some of the attendees were able to get in on the extra TLC offerings. 

With sunny skies (most days), the Blue Angels flying overhead in prep for Seafair, and absolutely thrilling finals matches, it’s no wonder that the USTA saves the Washington State Open for the end of the USTA NW Regionals tour. As one can imagine, there were many injuries over the course of the week that we helped the players cope with, and here are some suggestions on how these injuries could have been prevented and best managed going forward. 

Elbow tendonitis and inflammation

It’s no surprise that “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow” were very common injuries. Even if you’ve never picked up a golf club in your life, when you use your elbow as much as tennis players do, your risk of overuse and improper elbow use is high. 

Best Practice: Most players were able to gain instant relief with treatment, but a long-term solution should include a review of the player’s grip, swing biomechanics, rehab routine (pre- and post-training), and a plan to gradually increase the demand on the injured elbow once it has healed. Most players are able to get away with usual therapies, exercises and treatments, but some of the most difficult cases require a reevaluation of the entire shoulder and arm movement patterns.

Shoulder pain and inflammation

The serve in tennis is a high-velocity movement that can easily destroy a shoulder if not executed safely, and can injure the tendons, ligaments and shoulder joint in a short amount of time. Most commonly, it was poor movement patterns that caused the muscle imbalances that led to the shoulder injury with these tennis players. 

Best Practice: A player really has two options. 1. Do usual treatments, exercises and therapies to treat the injury and avoid future injure with preventative measures and hope for the best. 2. Correct the pathological shoulder movement pattern, along with usual preventative treatments, to secure a long and injury free tennis career. Surgical options can be used, but it is extremely difficult to return to play at the same pre-injury level without long-term dedication to rehabilitation, and correction of the pathological movement pattern. 

Back pain

Playing tennis is extremely hard on the spine, and it almost goes without saying, but it doesn’t have to be. During high-intensity moments in a tennis match, the brain must choose between breathing to get oxygen, or bracing the core to support the spine. Often the player gets tired, the body compensates to breathe harder, and then an injury occurs. Andy Murray is a prime example of this, as he unfortunately struggled to get healthy, all while playing a style of tennis that requires an extremely high level of fitness.

Best Practice: Having a higher level of fitness will cover many sins in tennis, and this is a good example of when higher fitness would be a great benefit. However, chronic back problems don’t need to be chronic, and require a proper diagnosis and intervention by a practitioner who can teach proper breathing, bracing and spinal support strategies. 

Special thanks to all the competitors and fans of the tournament, as well as Seattle Tennis Club for being a generous host of the event every year. If you haven’t been to a Washington State Open yet, mark your calendars for next year no — you won’t be disappointed.