The Lower back is a commonly injured area in tennis players accounting for up to 20% of all reported injuries. The high prevalence of lower back complaints is due largely to the peak forces experienced by this body region during certain tennis strokes and movements. In particular the combined rotation, side flexion and extension movement of the lower back during the service motion places substanstantial stress on this part of the body.
Biomechanical studies have found that lateral flexion forces acting on the lower back during the service motion are up to eight times higher than those experienced during running! It’s important that with this knowledge in mind we do everything we can to reduce the risk of developing back problems and keep ourselves on court and healthy!
Two of the main risk factors associated with lower back pain are:
- A lack of mobility or flexibility in the lumbar spine.
- Weakness in the core musculature that helps support and stabilise your lower back.
Injury to any tissue structure in the body is determined by the level and rate at which force is applied to it and the ability of that tissue to resist or absorb force. We know that rigid tissue lacking in elastic properties compared to flexible tissue is less capable of absorbing high forces and will fail or injure quicker. Therefore It stands true to say that a stiff lower back which is unable to move through the range required to perform a particular shot, will be less capable of absorbing the stresses placed on it and more likely to become injured.
Similarly if the musculature that supports your lower back and spine is weak, these weak muscle will be less able to support your back and evenly distribute the forces acting on it. A weak back results in the volatile structures such as your discs and joints taking more of the load increasing the risk of injury to these important structures.
Lower Back Pain in Tennis Players
At Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic our chartered physiotherapists and certified strength and conditioning specialists address the above factors by looking to improve core strength and lumbar mobility. We use the latest evidence based research to combine manual based therapy techniques with rehabilitative exercises to ensure that you are fully rehabilitated before returning to the tennis court. Our physiotherapists will provide you with a maintenance program for your back to help reduce the risk of back pain re-occurrence.
With any injury it is better to be proactive than reactive when attempting to address the underlying causes. An appropriate lower back pain prevention programme must be specific to the sport in question and should equip your lower back with adequate strength and mobility to control both the level and direction of forces it is being subjected to. Take a look at the video below for some exercises that will help you control the extension, lateral flexion and rotational forces acting on the lower back during the tennis serve.
For help with lower back problems call Portobello Physiotherapy at 01 476 3330. We’ll help to get you back on the tennis court.