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Tennis Players Guide to Injuries: Ankle

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Tennis player guide to ankle injuries

What are the most common tennis injuries?

  • Ankle 24%

  • Knee 19%

  • Wrist / hand 18%

  • Shoulder 8%

  • Calf muscle group 5%

  • Foot 5%

  • Elbow 4%

Types of injuries sustained by tennis players:

  • Anterior knee pain

  • Ankle sprain (ligaments)

  • Achilles’ tendinopathy / sprain / rupture

  • Elbow / wrist tendinopathy / strain (tennis elbow)

  • Muscle strain (“pulled” muscle)

  • Rotator cuff tendinopathy

  • Stress fractures

An ankle sprain is a common tennis injury due to the requirement to move around the court quickly, needing the ability to react and change direction very suddenly. Most commonly we sprain the ligaments on the outside of our ankle, known as an inversion or lateral ankle sprain.

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain varies in severity and is when the ligament fibers are torn due to excessive loading or force placed onto the soft tissues.

Common symptoms:

  • Pain on the side of the ankle (inside or outside),

  • Swelling, inflammation and/or bruising,

  • Reduced movement and/or strength of ankle joint,

  • Painful/unable to weight-bear on the ankle.

Grading of sprains:

How do I know if I tore a tendon in my ankle?

A healthcare practitioner will be able to assess and perform special tests which will determine the injured structures. Once the professional has determined then injury, they will be able to provide you with specific treatment and advice to accelerate the healing and recovery. If grade 3 sprain, then the practitioner will also refer you for an x-ray to determine if there has also been any fracture of the involved bones.

Why do I keep spraining my ankle when I play tennis?

Possible causes of ankle sprains:

  • Lack of flexibility of the ankle,

  • Weakness of the ankle joint – poor balance / proprioception,

  • Insufficient warm up before playing,

  • Incorrect footwear.

Reduced flexibility around the ankle puts increased stress and force through the muscles and ligaments around the joint. Reduced flexibility could be the result of a:

  • previous injury,

  • lack of stretching after exercise,

  • a weakness in the joint where the muscles have tightened to prevent injury,

  • wearing certain footwear (un-supportive shoes or high heels).

Weakness around the ankle will increase the likelihood of rolling the ankle, hence stretching muscles and ligaments which can cause sprain or strain. The weakness will also reduce your ability to balance, increasing chance of falling. Balance is often referred to as proprioception, where we can re-train the signal from the brain to the muscle, so that the supportive muscles react quicker. By speeding up reactions, we help the body to correct the injury movement before we cause damage.

Performing a thorough active warm up before playing allows our body to be prepared for the exercise:

  • Increased heart rate and blood flow to the muscles (i.e. more oxygen for energy)

  • Gradually stretches the muscles so that they do not resist lengthening when performing sudden movements.

How to treat an ankle sprain?

  • P.R.I.C.E. (Protection, active Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)

  • Manual / soft tissue therapy (massage and/or joint mobilisations)

  • Exercise rehabilitation (strengthening and stretching)

  • Strapping and/or Kinesiotape

How to stop injuring my ankle?

  • Carrying out a warm up and cool down before exercise – tennis handout coming soon!

  • Strengthen the ankle joint – see below.

How can I strengthen my ankle?

Exercises coming soon!

Get in touch if you would like to book in for an injury assessment or Pilates session:

01352 746 500


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