Wimbledon Injuries: The 3 Most Notable Tennis Injuries of Top Tennis Players
Welcome to the thrilling world of Wimbledon, where the best of the best battle it out on the hallowed grass courts. But beneath the triumphs and glories lies a hidden side rarely explored— injuries that have plagued some of Wimbledon’s most iconic players. In this captivating article, we unveil the untold stories of Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, and Andy Murray, who faced their own unique challenges on the Wimbledon stage. Journey with us as we delve into the causes of these sports injuries, the physical demands of the sport, and the invaluable role of physiotherapy in their road to recovery. Prepare to be enthralled as we uncover the secrets behind the injuries that shaped Wimbledon history.
I. Rafael Nadal: Knee Tendinitis (2009)
Rafael Nadal has won two Wimbledon titles in 2008 and 2010. Throughout his career, one of the injuries sustained at Wimbledon that impacted his performance in 2009 was knee tendinitis, aka patellar tendinitis. The patellar tendon absorbs shock and distributes load between bone and muscle. It connects the front thigh muscles to a bony area below the kneecap. Repetitive movements such as jumping, running and change of direction are required in tennis. Hence, tendinitis can occur when the muscle or tendon cannot deal with a sudden increase in training load.
How Can Physiotherapy Help with Knee Tendinitis?
Physiotherapy would be helpful for this condition that Rafael had. During the initial phase of tendinitis, relative rest and icing would reduce pain levels and calm inflammation. Once the pain has subsided, loading up the tendon is important as tendon responds well to load. Physiotherapists can prescribe strengthening exercises for the leg muscles to offload the tendon. Isometric exercises such as wall sits, as seen in the photos below, have also been shown to relieve pain.
To perform wall sits, start by leaning your back against the wall and stretching your legs out in front of you with your toes pointing forward. With firm feet and pressing your back against the wall, slowly begin to sit down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Plyometrics aka explosive exercises, in physiotherapy rehab, would condition the tendon to handle load such as jumping and landing. The physiotherapist will assess the condition and provide advice according to the stage of recovery so that return to sports will be seamless.
II. Serena Williams: Hamstring Injury (2021)
Serena Williams is known as the best female tennis player of all time. She has won six Wimbledon championships, and she has been an inspiration for many women around the world. Unfortunately, in 2021, Serena withdrew from her 20th Wimbledon after her hamstring injury.
The hamstring muscles are located at the back of the thigh. Its function is to bend the knee. It also helps with deceleration of the knee joint, especially with running and walking. Hamstring strains occur when there is a sudden forceful contraction or when the knee is forcefully straightened. Movements in tennis such as change indirection, leaping, decelerating and sprinting, can cause the hamstring muscles to be at risk. Lack of flexibility and strength imbalances will also put a person at risk of a hamstring strain.
How Can Physiotherapy Help with a Hamstring Injury?
Physiotherapy facilitates the recovery of such strains by restoring the range of motion and function. To reduce swelling, icing and modalities such as ultrasound may be applied during the initial injury. Subsequently, manual therapy or dry needling may be used to reduce pain and restore function. The physiotherapists may also prescribe gentle stretches to help with mobility and muscle length. A simple hamstring stretch that you can perform at home is as follows: to start, lie down on a mat with your feet in a 90 degree angle with your hips lifted and with a towel under each foot. From that position, slide your feet forward while keeping your hips lifted. Repeat the stretch 10 times
During the mid to later stages of rehabilitation, physiotherapists may include eccentric training that involves loading the muscle in a lengthened position. This has shown positive results in restoring hamstring strength. Recurrence of this injury is common. Hence, physiotherapy rehabilitation needs to be thorough and consistent.
III. Andy Murray: Hip Injury (2017)
Andy Murray is a winner of three Grand Slam singles titles and has won two Wimbledon championships in 2013 and 2016, respectively. However, his success was not an easy one. Andy did sustain a hip injury that caused him to withdraw from the 2017 Wimbledon game. Before his Wimbledon Win, Andy had been dealing with his hip injury since he was 22 years old.
Tennis requires a lot of pivoting and repetitive twisting of the torso and hips. These actions can lead to joint stress and overuse. Common hip conditions that arise from joint stress, overuse and muscle weakness are osteoarthritis, labral tear and muscle strains. Reduced hip mobility, lack of strength and poor balance may place individuals at risk of such hip injuries.
How can Physiotherapy help with Hip Injuries?
Recovery can be expedited with physiotherapy. In fact, prehabilitation measures such as joint mobilization, stretches and strengthening can prevent tennis injuries from occurring. A physiotherapist can identify range deficits and apply joint mobilizations to improve the range. Functional movement retraining helps players with their body awareness, utilize muscles to their advantage and restore pain-free function. Physiotherapists will also teach clients to self-manage their condition and improve mobility. For eg, hip switches are a good warm-up routine that players can do to improve their mobility before their games. Strengthening exercises biasing the gluteal, inner thigh and hamstring muscles will also be prescribed to offload the hip joint and improve performance.
To perform hip switches, begin by sitting down with your legs slightly bent in front of you. With your hips squared, turn your knees to the right until your right knee touches the ground if possible – hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat this action by turning your knees to the opposite direction and holding for 10 seconds to open up the hip flexors.
Physiotherapy for Tennis Injuries
In conclusion, even world players are not spared from tennis injuries. This further reinforces how important it is to have proper strength and conditioning while playing high-intensity sports to avoid injuries. Other common tennis injuries include upper body injuries such as rotator cuff tears, tennis elbow and wrist injuries.
Physiotherapists have different ways of assisting with pain management, recovery and return to sports. Individualised treatments and proper patient education will be given on self-management. Besides strengthening exercises, mobility and motor control exercises are provided to help individuals with their range and body awareness. Even injury-free or pain-free individuals will benefit from Physiotherapy guidance on proper warm-ups and cool-downs. Conditioning exercises can also be provided for different body parts to optimise performance in tennis. If you are experiencing pain or would like to get started on your Physiotherapy treatment, do give us a call or simply drop us a message.