Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) is caused by repetitive movements that strain the elbow tendon. The elbow tendon becomes inflamed or damaged and feels like an ache along the elbow. Sometimes the pain shoots down your forearm. Many tennis students get it as they are learning the sport and so do tennis parent! Let me share what I discovered and how I was able to overcome 12 months of pain.
How my tennis elbow pain started
My return to tennis after a 30 year absence started back in 2014, when just a few days before my daughter Zoe’s 4th birthday, we were sitting on the sofa watching the BBC live coverage of the 2014 Ladies Wimbledon Final, between Petra Kvitova and Eugenie Bouchard. It was at this point Zoe declared her love for tennis!
For those of you that don’t remember, Kvitova enjoyed a pretty emphatic win over Bouchard, 6-3, 6-0. The day following we had bought a racket for Zoe and a handful of tennis balls from the local JD Sports outlet together with a 3 metre mini net and the front drive was converted to our Centre Court!
Fast forward to 2022, and both my kids, Zoe and Alex are still very passionate about tennis and Dad is struggling to keep up with his daughter’s pace and power on court. Up until then I had been playing with a Wilson Burn 100 v 3.0 which was hard hitting and heavy. However, I had overlooked a number of key factors that were about to be the beginning of my twelve month battle with tennis elbow. So here are the factors that caused and cured my tennis elbow.
Influences on Tennis Elbow
I had never talked to anyone about my choice of racket and in particular the weight and grip size. I had opted for what I liked the look of and what was available from a coach at our local tennis centre in the UK. My hands aren’t massive and I had mistakenly bought a racket that was a grip size too big, hence my forehand grip wasn’t at its optimum.
I had underestimated the effect of the strings and repetitive daily use of the racket would have on my arm. So in 2022 as Zoe’s tennis reached a level that required some serious work on my part to return, rally and serve, I started to develop a pain in my elbow, which rapidly worsened. We had moved from the UK in October 2020 to Romania and after a lengthy break due to circumstances beyond our control we were back hitting daily, playing catch up for the time lost.
Time for some advice
I sought advice from a coach here in Romania who immediately suggested a change of grip and strings. This seemed to ease the problem but the racket was still too heavy and too big. I borrowed my wife’s Wilson ULS 100 which immediately eased the pain as it was a lighter racket and the correct grip size for me as she too had found her racket a bit uncomfortable so had swapped to a Babolat Flow Lite. I also rested for 4 weeks and tried various types of self massage and stretching to ease the pain but every time I picked up the racket, it came racing back!
Again the pain started to build up and I was at a loss as to what to do. However, a chance encounter with another tennis Dad at our kids’ training here in Buzau and an observation from my wife when we were practising together set me on my course to finding the solution.
My wife spotted I was hitting just a fraction late and so the stress on my arm was at its maximum because my racket impact point was not in front as it should have been but was more alongside my body. On the same day I handed over my ULS for restringing as I had been hitting with a Head multifilament string 1.5mm at 24kg tension.
The new string chosen for me by the other tennis Dad was absolutely perfect. He too was in the same situation hitting with his sons and offered me the MSV Focus Hex Soft 120 set vertically at 23kg and horizontally at 22kg tension.
This final tweak was two weeks ago and I am back to hitting almost completely normally with Zoe and Alex, serving again, and playing sets with other tennis parents with barely no discomfort. Yippee! I have cured my tennis elbow!
The Key Factors That Cured My Tennis Elbow
The following factors all played a part in causing and curing my tennis elbow:-
- Weight of racket
- Grip size
- Position of forehand grip on racket
- Forehand timing when striking the ball
- String quality
I would like to state at this point these are purely observations I have encountered and in no way are they to be taken as professional, medical or scientific based facts to cure tennis elbow. But I felt it was worth sharing my experience with other tennis players to see if they too had experienced tennis elbow and found any cures. I do not wear any form of physical support on my elbow and my forehand grip is between Semi-Western and Western.
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