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Shoulder Pain in Tennis Players

dr. jacob mobility performance tennis Oct 10, 2019


Tennis is a sport that demands an incredible amount of strength, stability, and performance out of one of the most unstable joints in the human body… the shoulder. Not only do you need to drive your shoulder through some truly incredible velocities with something like a serve, but you need to be able to control that power through finely tuned movements in multiple planes of motion with an almost endless list of types of swings. 

The demands on the shoulder are pervasive in tennis and because of this we have successfully treated endless amount of shoulder related injuries from the tennis players we see at Athletes’ Potential. However, through all these injuries that we’ve worked with, we have started noticing some trends in common strength deficiencies and biomechanical limitations that, when addressed, can have serious impacts on reducing injury risk and improving performance.  

Trend #1: Inadequate Shoulder External Rotation Range of Motion 

Arguably the most violent swing in tennis is the serve. To generate the amount of torque required for this swing, you need to have an appropriate amount of external rotation at your shoulders. 

The video below goes over a quick and easy drill to assess your shoulder external rotation. Essentially you should be able to lay on the ground and get the back of your wrist to the ground while keeping your low back pinned to the floor. 

Some common mistakes to avoid when doing this assessment include:

  • Hitting the floor with the back of your hand and your wrist bent
  • Letting your low back come off the ground 
  • Not having your shoulder at 90 degrees (elbow at the same height as your shoulder) before externally rotating 

If you can’t bring your wrist to the ground, or you have pain when you do or feel like you really have to fight to get there, then try some of my favorite drills to improve shoulder external range of motion. 

Drill #1: Front Rack Opener

​Drill #2: Lat Stretch

​Drill #3: Upper Back Mobilization

Trend #2: Upper Back Strength 

In order to have a strong, effective swing you need to have a strong back. This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but let me explain. Your body is innately intelligent and it’s not going to let you produce more force than it feels it can control. Therefore, to have a better swing, you need to have a strong back to be able to eccentrically control your arm as you go through the swinging motion. 

Some of my absolute favorite exercises to make sure you have a strong upper back are listed below. 

Exercise #1: Deadlifts

​Exercise #2:  Pendlay Row


Let us help you figure out to live your best active life today! 

 Remember, Movement is Medicine! 

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