Game for Everyone
centuries, people of all ages have enjoyed tennis in one form
or another. As far back the 1300s, European royalty batted
balls across nets on elaborately constructed indoor courts.
One court built in 1529 by Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace
outside London is still in use today.
tennis can also be traced to the United Kingdom, where British
Army officer Walter C. Wingfield introduced a new, smaller
court and simpler set of rules at an 1873 garden party on
his Welsh estate. The new game was played outside on a grass
court, which eventually made the sport accessible to everyone.
provides a total aerobic body workout, and regular play is
a relatively safe and enjoyable way to stay fit. Children
need only be old enough to swing a racquet to play, and seniors
need only be mobile enough to get from one side of the court
to the other.
doesn't take a superior athlete to have fun playing tennis,
but care must always be taken to avoid injuries to muscles
not vigorously exercised off the tennis court.
is especially true of the foot and ankle, which are put under
considerable stress by the continuous side-to-side motion
and quick stopping and starting the sport requires. Different
court surfaces also stress the foot and ankle in different
racquet sports, such as racquetball, squash, badminton, and
paddle tennis, also leave the foot and ankle susceptible to
injury. Injuries common to tennis and other racquet sports
include ankle sprains, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis,
and tennis toe, among others. If they're minor, some of these
injuries are self-treatable. But if pain persists, a doctor
of podiatric medicine, especially a sports medicine specialist,
is well-equipped to help you get back on the court as quickly
Forget the Feet
modern times, maintenance-intensive grass courts have given
way to harder, more durable courts. Clay courts, and new crushed
stone "fast-dry" courts, which duplicate the softness of clay
but require less upkeep, are becoming more popular because
players can slide on the soft surface. Clay and fast-dry courts
are undoubtedly safest to the foot and ankle.
courts are often surfaced with asphalt or concrete, and indoor
courts with carpet, none of which allow for sliding. It's
becoming more popular to coat the harder outdoor courts with
a cushioning surface containing rubber granules. While this
coating softens the court and slows down the game, it's no
more forgiving to the feet than the concrete or asphalt beneath
of the different court surfaces varies geographically, based
on rainfall, humidity, and the age of most of the players
(older players tend to prefer the slower, gentler clay or
fast-dry court). Regardless of court surface, proper shoes
are crucial to injury prevention.
should be specifically designed for tennis. Unlike running
shoes, proper tennis shoes "give" enough to allow for side-to
side sliding. Running shoes have too much traction and may
cause injury to the foot and ankle. In addition, running shoes
don't have padded toe boxes, which leads to toe injuries for
should be snug-fitting to prevent slipping from side to side,
and both heel and toe areas should have adequate cushioning.
The arch should provide both soft support, and the toe box
should have adequate depth to prevent toenail injuries. Your
podiatrist can recommend a shoe that is best for your foot.
for tennis shoes in the afternoon, when the feet swell slightly.
Try on several pairs with tennis socks. Put on and lace both
shoes and walk around for a minute or two. Make sure your
ankles don't roll in the shoes.
you have bunions or other special considerations, do not buy
shoes without consulting a podiatric physician. If you already
wear prescription orthotic inserts, make sure that any potential
new shoe feels comfortable with it in place.
Ounce of Prevention
a good idea to have your feet and ankles evaluated by a professional
foot care specialist before taking to the court. Your podiatrist
can check for excessive pronation or supination (turning inward
or outward of the ankles), and if necessary prescribe a custom
orthotic device for insertion in the shoe to correct the imbalance.
of the stress on calf and hamstring muscles, thorough stretching
before a match can prevent common injuries to the leg. Stretching
out after a match alleviates stiff muscles.
stretches such as the hurdler's stretch, the wall push-up,
and standing hamstring stretch will loosen up the muscles
enough to prevent pulls and other injuries. Your podiatric
physician can explain how to do these exercises.
podiatric physician may advise you as to proper nail care
and warning signs of nail problems. Feet should always be
kept clean and dry. Socks should always be worn -- tennis
socks made of either acrylic or a blend of acrylic and natural
fibers are preferable.
on the tennis court range from simple to serious. Some are
self-treatable, while others will require professional consultation
with a physician. The most common injuries in all racquet
sprains. They are the most common of all tennis injuries.
Ankle sprains usually occur when the foot turns inward, causing
swelling and pain on the outside of the ankle. To self-treat
a mild ankle sprain, get weight off the ankle, apply ice to
reduce swelling, wrap the ankle in a compression bandage,
and elevate the ankle. If the sprain does not improve within
3-5 days, consult a podiatric physician.
fasciitis. Stress on the bottom of the foot sometimes
causes arch pain. The plantar fascia, a supportive, fibrous
band of tissue running the length of the foot, becomes inflamed
and painful. If arch pain persists, consider investing in
better shoes, an over-the-counter support, or see a doctor
of podiatric medicine for a custom-made orthotic device to
insert into the shoe.
toe. A subungal hematoma, or tennis toe, occurs when
blood accumulates under the nail. Tennis toe can usually be
traced to improper shoes, and should be drained by a podiatrist
for quicker recovery. For slight buildup, cool compresses
and ice will provide relief.
fractures and shin splints. Sometimes the long metatarsal
bones behind the toes fracture and swell under the stress,
causing severe pain when walking. Shin splints, which are
microtears of the anterior calf muscles, and Achilles tendon
pulls of the posterior calf muscles, are all treatable with
rest, ice, and elevation. These injuries tend to occur on
harder court surfaces, and should be healed fully before resuming
play. Persistent pain should signal a visit to the podiatrist
calluses, and blisters. Such friction injuries are readily
self-treatable, yet care should be taken to ensure that self-treatment
does not aggravate the problem. When treating corns and calluses,
do not try to trim with sharp objects. Instead, buff problem
areas with a pumice stone after bathing.
blisters, pierce the side with a sterilized needle and drain,
then apply an antibiotic cream. Do not remove the roof of
the blister. Application of a frictionless pad provides relief
racquet sports require quick acceleration, twisting, and pivoting,
putting the whole body under stress. If you are more than
40 years old, see a general physician before beginning to
play tennis or other racquet sports.
if you consider yourself generally healthy, ease into a regular
schedule of playing time. Whenever you change courts, be sure
to get a "feel" for the new surface before serving up a match.
Even professional tennis players arrive at tournaments up
to a week early to acclimate themselves to the court surface.
all, listen to your body. Persistent minor aches and pains
are not normal, and will become aggravated if ignored or neglected.
Proper care of the whole body, and especially the foot and
ankle, will make tennis and other racquet sports a healthy
part of life for people of all ages.
American Podiatric Medical Association operates a toll-free
telephone service, 1-800-FOOTCARE (1-800-366-8227),
from which consumers can obtain informative literature on
a variety of foot health topics. The American Academy of Podiatric
Sports Medicine, an affiliate of APMA, may be reached at 1-800-438-3355.
in cooperation with the American Academy of Podiatric Sports