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Health & Exercise Forum

Prevent Shoulder Injuries in Tennis: Part 1 of 2

Jun 24, 2013

Prevention  of Shoulder Injuries in Tennis


Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumPart 1 of 2: Strengthen to Prevent Shoulder Injuries in Tennis

You can tell that it is officially summer, not only by the  arrival of the longest day of the year, but also by the beautiful sound  of a tennis ball hitting a racquet hitting at Scranton Tennis Club and  Birchwood Racquet and Fitness Club. So, get your racquets out and join  the fun! However, take time to “tune up” in order to prevent injury,  especially to the shoulder. In a sport that relies so heavily on the  use of the shoulder, it is very common for tennis players to develop  occasional shoulder pain or a more chronic problem such as shoulder  rotator cuff tendinitis. That is exactly what happened to professional  tennis star, Maria Sharapova and many others over the past few seasons.

For many, tennis  is more of a seasonal sport. For example, in high school it is played  in the fall for girls and spring for boys. In the off-season, a shoulder  can lose much of its essential strength.  This loss will result  in a deconditioned shoulder at the start of the season and making it  more susceptible to injury.  Practicing with a deconditioned shoulder  commonly results in sprain, strain and pain.  Pain and weakness  will significantly interfere with the ability to perform at a high level.

To  prevent shoulder problems one must participate in an exercise program  specifically designed for tennis. A well-balance shoulder strengthening  program includes; rotator cuff and scapular (shoulder blade) muscle  exercises, reeducation, biomechanics, and a stretching program pre and  post hitting. This column will discuss some of these principles to properly  prepare your shoulder for the tennis season and avoid injury.


To avoid shoulder pain it is necessary to maintain shoulder strength. Stretching  exercises are also important and will be discussed in next week in,  Prevention of Shoulder Injuries in Tennis - Part II. Strengthening exercises  need to concentrate on three groups of muscles: power muscles (the large  muscles of the shoulder), shoulder blade stabilizer muscles (the muscles  which stabilize the shoulder blade, and the all important rotator cuff  muscles (the muscles which move the shoulder and control the cocking  and follow through phases of the tennis stroke, while keeping the joint  in proper position).  Strengthening the power muscles of the shoulder  is fairly easy; latissimus pull downs, pectoralis bench presses, and  bicep curls will cover all bases.  While these exercises are important  in maintaining strength and power of the throwing shoulder, they are  not as important as the exercises for the shoulder stabilizers and rotator  cuff muscles.

  • Perform with comfortable weight 15-20 repetitions
  • Advance weight once 25 reps becomes easy
  • Perform slowly and smoothly

Rotator Cuff Internal Rotation (Tennis Forehand Stroke)

Holding  a light or medium resistance band, imitate a forehand stroke with slight  bend in the elbow.

Rotator Cuff External Rotation (Tennis Backhand Stroke)

  • Holding  a light or medium resistance band, imitate a backhand stroke with slight  bend in the elbow.

Latissimus Pull downs – Kneeling or sitting

  • Tie  resistive tubing overhead and pull down toward the floor
  • Begin  with elbows bent and advance to elbows straight

Bench Press -  Lying on back with knees bent

  • Hold  a 5-10-15-20# dumbbell in each hand
  • Press  both arms up to a straight elbow

Biceps Curls - Sitting or standing

  • Hold  a 5-10-15-20# dumbbell in one hand
  • Bend  elbow up
  • Use  other hand to support arm under elbow
  • Repeat  with other arm

Model: Catherine Weaver

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your  body.

Contributor: Gary E. Mattingly, PT, PhD: Professor, University  of Scranton, Dept. of Physical Therapy, Shoulder Rehab Specialist, Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr.  Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.  Part II “Prevention of Shoulder  Injuries in Tennis”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment.  If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact  your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing  in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private  practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth  Medical College.