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Health

Keeping tennis & golf injury free this summer

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Torrey Wiley
/
Flickr

Summer is approaching, and with the nicer weather, you may become more active by breaking out those golf clubs and tennis rackets. However, you could be one swing away from an elbow, wrist, or hand injury if you don't take the proper precautions.

This week on "Take Care," Dr. John Fatti tells us how these injuries can happen, and what to do to avoid them. Fatti is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand, wrist and elbow injuries, and he is the president of SOS -- Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists --in Syracuse, NY.

Among elbow, wrist, and hand injuries, the elbow seems to be the most commonly injured -- even earning the well-known name of tennis or golfer's elbow. Fatti says the injury can occur on either side of the elbow, but that injury to the lateral side (outside of the elbow) is more common in tennis players, and injury to the medial side (inside of the elbow) is more common in golfers.

But no matter the side of the injury, Fatti says damage to the elbow during tennis and golf is most often caused by not properly warming up. When your muscles aren't warm and you take a swing that's a bit too hard, it can cause micro tears in the muscles and joints of the elbow, according to Fatti. Although these tears have to accumulate over time to become a problem, they can cause pain, swelling, and limit movement once they do.

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Credit fabianitennischool/Flickr

"They make us want to put our golf clubs or tennis rackets away, because it's a very painful situation," Fatti said.

Fatti advises heat packing and stretching the area before playing golf or tennis to warm the muscles and joints, and then icing the area afterwards to reduce any inflammation that may have occurred.

"It's important not to just jump out of our car and run onto the tennis court...or run to the first hole," Fatti said.

But if the micro tears have really set in and home remedies just aren't cutting it, Fatti says you may want to seek out a specialist for one of two treatment options.

"One would be a cortisone injection, which would shrink, significantly, the inflammation in that area. Or a little bit more conservatively, taking a little bit longer, is a physical therapy program," Fatti said.

Although micro tears can heal on their own, Fatti says it usually takes an entire season of no activity involving the elbow to do so.

As for the wrist, injury can also occur with overuse and an improper warm-up before activity. Fatti says injury on the ulnar side, or the pinky side, of the wrist is most common. He advises wearing some sort of outer support, such as an ace bandage to help with this.

Arthritis in the fingers can also be a problem when trying to hold on to a tennis racket or golf club. Fatti advises making the grip of the handle thicker for this. With a thicker handle to grip, a racket or club will be easier to hang on to.

Although golf and tennis injuries can become more common as you get older, Fatti says you should never give up playing the sports you love.

"It is so important to continue to remain active. Continue your sport, continue to warm up, ice afterwards," Fatti said.