Happy Summer! With that comes more outdoor activities including tennis. Time to get that tennis racket out and start swinging. However, you can injure yourself if you’re a novice and/or not careful, or further injure yourself if you have a weak or painful shoulder. Shoulder impingement is a common condition that develops when the soft tissues in the shoulder are overused or injured. The rotator cuff tendons, ligaments or bursa get pinched under the acromion (the tip of the shoulder blade) causing pain and impaired movement.
While playing tennis, your shoulder must move through a great range of motion. Do you have, or had in the past, underlying shoulder issues? If not, then you should have a great season—enjoy! If you have, then you need to make sure you are ready to get back into the swing of things. Weak muscles that control your shoulder blade or a compromised rotator cuff affect the mechanics of your shoulder and allow the soft tissues to get compressed, particularly with overhead activities like serving or overheads.
Try the test below (The Painful Arc Test) to see if the shoulder problem preventing you from playing effectively may be impingement.
Stand with your back up against a wall and your arms by your side. Move your arm slowly out to the side along the wall until your arm is raised above your head (if the pain is intolerable before you raise it all the way, you may have a more significant issue than impingement and stop the test). If you experience pain between roughly 70 and 120 degrees that then goes away or lessens is positive for a “painful arc” and means you likely have impingement.
If symptoms persist for more than two weeks or so, you should schedule an evaluation to have this further examined.
Effie Koustas, MPT