You know how it is. You've suffered an injury while playing tennis: you wince when you walk, it hurts when you swing your arm, or any sudden movement leaves you wishing you hadn't got out of bed. However, you still can't wait to get back in the game.
Of course, a period of rest is necessary after any injury, but eventually you feel ready to start playing again. It's true that exercise is as important a part of your recovery as the rest, but the crucial thing is to take it easy and not hurt yourself all over again. For many of us, tennis is an essential part of life, and maybe even our daily routine. Time out can see muscles get out of shape and skills and reaction times become dulled. As soon as you feel ready, therefore, you should start playing again, but with certain precautions.
The action you should take depends on the type and severity of your injury. A sprained or twisted ankle can be caused by sudden sideways movements during a match, and should be treated with rest and a combination of compression and elevation. Ice can also be applied, though not directly onto the skin.
A calf strain can occur when you pull a muscle in your lower leg. Wearing appropriate compression gear on the leg can aid recovery and help prevent a recurrence of the injury when you start playing again following a period of rest. A wide variety of compression wear is available at sports retailer Tommie Copper, and you can also donate to their Tommie Cares Foundation.
Elbows and shoulders
Tennis elbow is due to overuse of the muscles that bend and extend the wrist. Exercise and a good warm-up routine can help to prevent this condition, which manifests as a painful inflammation of the tendons. Wearing a tennis elbow support band can help to prevent this recurring.
Stress to the shoulder when making repeated strokes could cause a variety of injuries. The most common is shoulder bursitis. This is an inflammation of the fluid sac known as the bursa, which can be impinged between the rotator cuff muscles and the shoulder bone, leading to a painful sensation whenever the arm is lifted up. This can be treated by rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, followed by gradual exercise.
Take it steady
In all cases, when returning to tennis after an injury, the best advice is to take it steady and take it slow. Keep your first session back brief, and volley rather than serve, as this is less stressful for the body. Start at about 30% of your usual capacity and gradually increase the intensity. The important thing is to listen to your body and not overdo it.
Stick to practice sessions until you feel ready. Even if you're determined to take it easy in a match, your competitive instincts can easily take over. If you were previously playing three to five days a week, cut down to just one day a week at first.
After a long lay-off, your muscles will be out of shape, so pay plenty of attention to stretches and warm-up exercises. Again, appropriate compression wear should help prevent further injury.