Most of us have heard of “tennis elbow,” but playing tennis on hard-surface courts force your knees to take quite a pounding as well. Knee soreness from tennis usually involves the knee cap. It is caused by repetitive stress from the sudden turns and stops and sharp movements from side to side that typically occur during a round of tennis, especially during a game of singles.
When excess stress is placed on your knees, the muscles around your joints can become fatigued and inflamed. Your sore knees are trying to tell you they need time to recover. If you ignore the signs, inflammation and tissue damage will persist, and you will increase the chance of injury on the tennis court.
Anterior Knee Pain
The knee pain most frequently suffered by avid tennis players is anterior, or front, knee pain. The soreness is due to either chondromalacia (softening of the cartilage) of the patella (knee cap) or tendinitis (when the tendon is inflamed and painful). Anterior knee pain is a direct result of the bouncing movement that occurs when a tennis player serves the ball.
Jumper’s knee (patellar tendinitis) is an irritation and inflammation of the thick patella tendon where it connects just under your knee cap (patella). Each time a tennis player jumps, small microscopic tears occur in the tendon until eventually tendinitis develops.
Treating Tennis Knee Problems
The minor pain associated with jumper’s knee and anterior knee pain can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) and possibly an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication.
Most knee problems associated with playing tennis improve considerably within a week or two. Consult your doctor if your pain persists for more than a couple of days.
Serious Tennis Knee Problems
If you suffer a major blow to your knees, as in the case of a fall or if your knees lock or you hear a popping sound, seek emergency medical care without delay.
Take Time Out
An important but sometimes ignored part of any exercise or strength training program is to refrain from working the same muscle groups for several days in a row. The same advice holds true in the game of tennis. The repeated motion itself is not to blame for your knee problems--but failing to allow sufficient recovery time is.
Taking some anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen, before playing tennis may help alleviate some post-game knee soreness.
The United State Tennis Association has produced DVD of warm-up exercises to prepare the body for the game.