Lateral epicondylitis: Is it preventable?

Injuries of the arm are common in sports. The lateral epicondyle is more common among tennis players. It occurs when there is a strain on the outer part of the elbow.
Two structures are mainly responsible for the pain. The first one is the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) which is the most significant culprit. The other one which is less likely to cause the injury is the extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL).

Lateral epicondyle is also called the tennis elbow because its primary cause is the repetitive motion of the arm. But it is even more likely to occur as a result of the wrong manipulation of the arm in a backhand stroke.

How can tennis players avoid the injury?

Tennis players fall victim to elbow pain due to the amount of effort they exert on the tendons that lead to the elbow, that is, the ECRB and the ECRL. There are few things they can learn that can prevent a lateral elbow injury. They include:

  • Using the second arm for support

The backhand stroke is not a natural movement. It requires a lot of effort, and this is the reason why it is the main reason for the ECRB and ECRL tear and consequent elbow injuries. One of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing these injuries is to support the acting arm with the other arm as you maneuver the move.
This ensures that the arm ligaments are less strained and that they can withstand the force. Alternatively, the player can opt to flex their elbow to prevent the pressure on the tendons.

  • Choosing a tennis racquet that is suited for your hand

As with every other part of our bodies, all our hands are not equal. Some people have larger palms than others. The size of the handle of the racquet is another reason why tennis players get elbow injuries.
One of the ways you can do this is by using the index finger test. When looking for a racket, hold it in your playing hand. While holding it, with your other hand, put your index finger between your thumbs and your fingers, do not force it. If your index finger fits tightly, that is your racket. When your finger leaves a lot of space, that racquet is too big for you, and if there is no space to fit it, the racquet is too small for you.
This test may not work for all other tools you use, but you should do your research or try some to see which one works best without hurting you.

  • Relax a little

Sometimes players tend to react too aggressively to the ball. These reactions may increase the force of the ball on the racquet causing your arm to work harder hence straining your ligaments. The strained ligaments may then start to tear leading to pain.
See a sports medicine professional
While you may have a trainer, a professional in sports medicine may be better suited in helping you out. Your trainer is only out to see you win tournaments but a person with a medical background will keep you in the game longer.

  • Strengthen your ligaments

This is another way of preventing injury. You can do exercises that help you to improve your arm strength. Resistance exercises would be best as they help you combat extra force from the ball.

 

Final thoughts

We earlier mentioned that lateral epicondylitis is not only a tennis injury. It can also affect people who do jobs that require them to move their arms in a particular direction over long periods of time. Other people who are prone to elbow injuries include painters and people who use hammers and other tools that operate the same way.

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