Tennis and arthritis

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Tennis and arthritis

Did you know former world number 1 tennis player, Caroline Wozniaki, won her final tennis tournament in China in 2018, just after she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis?1

With Wimbledon just around the corner, are you feeling the overwhelming desire to get your tennis shoes on and dust off your racket?

The good news is, even if you have arthritis, whether it is osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, you can still enjoy a game of tennis! If Caroline can do it, so can you!

What to consider before heading to the tennis courts

Be prepared – talk to your doctor first!

Just to make sure you are not going to do any damage! Chances are, they will be all for it, as long as you are careful, but it depends on how advanced your arthritis is, and your current levels of physical activity. They may suggest anti-inflammatory medication or possibly alternative therapies to help with exacerbation of any symptoms.

Get the correct kit

When deciding on the right kit to wear, it is worth asking your doctor or physiotherapist for advice, or better yet, talk to your local sports shop.

  1. Try and get a lightweight racket, to avoid strain on your wrists, elbows and shoulders.
  2. Wear cushioned trainers, as light as you can find. An additional arch support insole may help to keep your ankle, knee and hip joints in the correct alignment, if required.
  3. You can try any combination of padded armbands, knee sleeves and elbow sleeves, to reduce the strain on your joints.

Get the basics right first

Mastering the basic skills first will go a long way to protecting your shoulders, elbows and wrists, and reduce unnecessary movement. The same goes for your hips, knees and ankles, and your back. Getting some good quality coaching and practise what you learn, so these skills become second nature on the court.

On the court

  1. Play on a soft surface

    Try to play on a cushioned surface, such as clay, rubber or grass. This will protect your joints and minimise the stress of impact, particularly on your knees.2

  1. Support your joints

    You may have seen the brightly coloured tape on knees and shoulders, used by professional athletes. This is kinesiology tape, and it is used to support and stabilise muscles and joints without impacting the range of motion. There is no scientific evidence that it helps with the symptoms of arthritis, athletes believe it helps them, so it may help you too. You can also try wearing high top trainers to support your ankles.

  1. Play doubles

    If you can find a partner, try playing doubles as it will reduce the amount of court you need to cover, so you should find it less tiring, and better for your joints.

Why you should play

Tennis is a game that uses all parts of your body: hands to grasp the racket; elbows and shoulders for swinging and hitting the ball; spine for twisting in the serve and groundstrokes; hips, knees, ankles and feet for running, jumping, stopping and starting. With sensible precautions and modifications to equipment, tennis could improve your flexibility, strength in your joints and could boost your endurance.3

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