PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.
The answers in this week’s column are presented by Michele McCoy, athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach for USA Tennis High Performance. Michele has a background in working with elite level athletes. She earned her Master’s degree in Sport Psychology from San Diego State University in 1995 and her Exercise Science/Athletic Training degree in 1993 from Appalachian State University. Michele also competed as a junior tennis player in Florida and played on the Appalachian State University tennis team for two years.
Q: What recommendations do you have for treating and preventing tarsal navicular stress fractures in the foot?
-- Emma Carlson, Bozeman, MT
McCoy: Stress fractures are related to overuse and are most commonly seen in long distance runners, soccer and track athletes. Navicular stress fractures are disabling and very difficult to treat.
Some navicular stress fractures are resistant to traditional, conservative treatment methods - which typically involve not putting any weight on the foot for 2-4 weeks, followed by a period of time of partial weight bearing when the foot is in a boot (exact durations vary from physician to physician and the amount of healing that has occurred).
Keep in mind, recovery is usually very slow (can take up to several months) and if conservative management is unsuccessful, surgical intervention may be indicated.
Stress fractures can be avoided by using proper training protocols that incorporate rest and are designed so you do not increase your workload too rapidly.
Consider the intensity and frequency of your tennis play, especially when coming back from an injury, and look to play on clay if possible which will reduce the pounding your feet and legs take.
Q: I'm one week into a 6-8 week self-imposed lay-off from tennis in an effort to heal my tennis elbow. Any advice? I'm a 53 year old small-framed 3.0 player and play doubles 5-6 times a week on hard court surfaces with a Prince O3 Red racquet (4 & 1/2 grip size). Thanks!
-- Becky, Allex, TX
McCoy: First, I would recommend that you see a physician to make sure that what you are experiencing is actually “tennis elbow”. Here are some things you can do to help tennis elbow:
1. Wrist stretches: With the arm held straight and using the other hand to help with the stretch, push the hand in to extension so the back of the hand moves closer to your forearm. Apply pressure until you feel a slight stretch in the muscles. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Then flex the wrist and apply pressure with the other hand until you feel a slight stretch. Again hold for 20-30 seconds and perform each stretch 2-3 times a day.
2. Grip strengthening exercises: Squeezing a tennis ball or grabbing handfuls of sand or rice in a bucket will help build strength to prevent this from happening again.
3. Icing, and ibuprofen: These will help control inflammation and help with any pain. ALWAYS speak with your physician before taking medication, even ibuprofen.
4. Technique: Work with your teaching pro on technique to make sure that poor technique isn’t the cause of your injury.
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