Now that one of the worst winters in recent memory is behind us, it is time for spring and summer. And with the start of the “warm” season, it is time to get back into the swing of things. And by swing, I mean a return of all those tennis and golf addicts hitting the courts and courses swinging at all those tennis and golf balls after a long season stuck hibernating indoors.

As with any sport, including tennis and golf, the more you participate in such activities the higher your risk of injury – except for the few “professionals” out there. Today, we will focus on two injuries specifically which are associated with tennis and golf – namely, lateral and medial epicondylitis, which are commonly known as “tennis elbow”and “golfer’s elbow”. These conditions cause which pain on the outer and inner part of the elbow and forearm due to movement of the elbow and wrist. These injuries are commonly due to repetitive motion, lack of adequate muscle strength, lack of flexibility and range of motion in the muscle and joints, and improper technique.

There are two concepts about golfer’s and tennis elbow that are important to discuss – prevention and treatment. The easiest way to prevent injury is to fix improper technique, and the best way to correct technique is to enlist the help of a professional expert so that they can guide you. Also, simple things as correct tennis racket grip and length of golf clubs can make a significant difference in not only improving your performance but also preventing injury. As always, proper stretching, a short warm up period, and proper hydration before you engage in full competition will also help you avoid injury. It is also a great idea to make sure you are in “tip-top” shape prior to playing so that you avoid injury. The best way to do this is to schedule an appointment with a sports medicine/pain specialist to make sure your body – particularly your muscles, bones, and joints – are in optimal condition.

But if it is too late and you are already experiencing pain there are some simple treatments to try before seeing a physician. The first is REST, REST, REST. As golfer’s and tennis elbow are primarily overuse injuries from repetition, mild pain is an indication that you need to allow the muscles, bones, and joints to rest. Rest can also be combined with heat/ice treatments and over the counter medications such as tylenol and ibuprofen. Pain that persists beyond this may require braces or splints to maintain optimal alignment in order to place the elbow in a relaxed position to decrease the physical stress placed on the area. If pain persists for long periods of time or increases in intensity, you will need to see a sports/pain specialist physician who can recommend more advanced braces than what’s available at your local pharmacy in addition to recommending simple home exercises. Also, cortisone injections performed in the office requiring only a few minutes can alleviate swelling, inflammation, and pain in the elbow. These simple steps will help a majority of patients, but further treatment including MRIs, ultrasound, and surgical evaluation may be necessary to diagnose and treat more serious problems that may exist.

We have all been waiting a long time for this warm weather to get back outdoors, and with some simple preventative measures and remedies you can enjoy playing pain-free tennis and golf rather than watching!


Manan Patel, MD

Pain Specialist

University Pain Medicine Center

Somerset, NJ

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