For many people, tennis is a pleasant pastime that affords them the opportunity to be social and get some exercise. As a result, many players simply ‘teach’ themselves and in so doing, inadvertently pick up bad techniques for striking the ball. For any player, this practice may result in developing so-called Tennis Elbow.
Tennis elbow seems to strike at random, while one may suffer; the next person in the same circumstances develops no symptoms. Factors that are thought to result in this condition include playing with inferior tennis balls, poor-quality rackets and incorrectly strung rackets. These, combined with poor playing technique combine to cause tennis elbow – a condition that can variously mean having to give up a hobby or a professional career.
Basically, what causes tennis elbow is the vibration of the ball hitting the racket and that vibration then travelling up the arm, resulting in numerous ‘micro-traumas’, which individually do not hurt, but cumulatively lead to damage of the shoulder, elbow and wrist. This is most likely to occur when the joint in question is bent at the time of impact. The most common action is the backhand motion (supination) with a bent arm at impact.
When the vibration travels up the arm, it follows the path of least resistance – therefore, when the joint is at an angle, the energy tends to stop (or be greatly dissipated) at that point. By contrast, when the arm is straight at the point of impact, the vibration passes by the various joints, to be dispersed in the larger shoulder joint or body as a whole.
The question is: Is there a cure? Once the damage is done, can it be remedied? Stopping playing tennis or taking up a different sport may relieve the symptoms temporarily but at some point, general wear and tear will only exacerbate the problem, as will a return to playing with the incorrect technique. Other complications can arise within the wrist and metacarpal area, where there are numerous tiny bones and ligaments which are more fragile than the elbow joint – the lateral connecting ligament between the humerus and radius (HR) forearm bones.
It is not uncommon for tennis enthusiasts who don’t want to quit, to attempt to learn how to play with the other hand. Some do so with success.
A few years ago, one of the members of my club, Partizan (the same club where Novak and Ana play), asked me to correct his forehand, using his left hand. Today, he loves playing with his left and wins frequently. He tells me that he has no desire to go back to playing with his right hand.
Anyhow, there is a tennis “cure with the instruction” beside known medical therapies:
First of all, you need to learn the correct one-handed backhand technique – learning to strike the ball only with a straight, ‘locked’ elbow. As mentioned previously, this allows the vibrations of impact to travel unimpeded up the length of the arm, to dissipate in the shoulder and body mass. Think of it as a properly earthed lightning conductor, transmitting energy into the earth.