Knee Pain From Tennis

When you're all caught up in your tennis match, nothing else matters but the thrill of competition. When you race across your end of the court to thwack the ball over the net, all you're interested in is the look on your opponent's face when you score a point. What you don't notice until after the game is knee pain.

Female tennis player hitting a backhand
Credit: Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Tennis and the Joints

Tennis requires you to be quick on your feet, dodging this way and that to keep up with that ball. All of the constant back-and-forth, quick turns, lunges and other moves to keep the ball in play mean that your knees are constantly being twisted, turned and pounded on. If you play regularly, the strain on your knees can build up and result in injury and long-term damage.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries from tennis are common. Patellofemoral pain syndrome is one injury frequently seen in tennis players, according to the Sports Injury Clinic website, because it occurs when the underside of the kneecap rubs against the leg bones. Tennis players also commonly develop an injury called patella tendinitis, or jumper's knee, in which the tendons in the knee suffer damage from repetitive strain and movement. Bursitis may also develop in the knee from overexertion while playing tennis. The knee may also suffer a sprain, strain or tear in the ligament or cartilage. Arthritis can also set in after years of strain on the knee joint, resulting in pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced range of motion.

Dealing With Knee Pain

If you have an injury, take a break from tennis and exercise in general to allow the knee to heal. Try to ice the knee to ease pain and inflammation, and keep the knee elevated to manage swelling. Wear a bandage or brace to protect and support the knee. Use a pain-relieving medication or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to manage pain and swelling. If you suffer from chronic knee pain from arthritis, you may need to find a lower-impact activity like walking or swimming instead of tennis. Consult your doctor if your knee pain persists or worsens.

Preventing Knee Pain

Tennis players should take care to protect their knees and prevent knee pain and problems. Always warm up before a match, and cool down afterward. Play within your limits, and ease back into tennis if you've taken a break or haven't played for years. Strengthen the muscles around your knee and in your legs to offer better support and protection for your knees. Always wear shoes with plenty of support and cushion, and play in a brace if your knee needs extra support, the Society of Tennis Medicine and Science suggests.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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