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Ask the High Performance Lab - Mar. 6

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

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: I noticed a twinge in my left shoulder at the end of the summer triathlon season. When I started playing league tennis, a chronic pain developed on top of this 54-year-old lefties' tennis shoulder, and it seems to be getting worse. The usual icing does not seem to help. Should I get this looked at? I'm down to an hour of tennis a week. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

-- Anonymous

McCoy: Yes, this is something that you should get checked out by an orthopedic physician. It sounds like classic rotator cuff impingement syndrome, which will probably require some form of pain management and strengthening in physical therapy.

But first, you need to find out if the cause is your swim/tennis technique or something structural inside your shoulder and the doctor can take x-rays to find that out.

As an aside, both swimming and tennis place the rotator cuff at risk for injury/ impingement if proper technique is not used. Until you identify the cause of the pain, continue icing and your doctor may recommend you take an anti-inflammatory medication.

Also, consider completely stopping the activities that cause the pain until you have seen the doctor. If you continue you will just be doing further damage.

Q: I had an injury two months ago when I sprained my ankle. After a couple of weeks of taking it easy, I started slowly with sport activities and then got back to regular routine. That includes 2-3 tennis matches and several volleyball games per week - so I am in a good shape for a 38-year-old. For some reason, I am experiencing pain in the calf that had the injured ankle. I was wondering if that could be related or if I should look for answers elsewhere.

-- Fedja Jeleskovic, Arlington, Mass.

McCoy: The tightness in your calf can be a result of “taking it easy” after your ankle sprain. Your calf muscles may have shortened and become weaker during the period of inactivity.

I suggest you perform standing calf stretches (after a 10 min period of warm-up) holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds each time 2-3 times per day.

Perform the calf stretches with your knee straight and with it slightly bent to ‘hit’ both muscles in the calf. Sometimes after an ankle sprain, swelling can occur underneath the Achilles tendon and that can also cause pain and tightness.

If you have pain there, a deep massage to “milk” out the stubborn swelling may help, too.

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Click here for USTA.com's Health & Fitness Archive.

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