The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Tennis, Anyone? Tennis Foot and Leg Injuries

Posted by on Monday, June 25th, 2012


Picture this: green grassy lawns…people wearing white…wearing hats…trying to be polite to each other…strawberries and cream…

What am I describing? No, not an outdoor summer wedding–unless you’re planning to get married at the Wimbledon tennis tournament!

Yes, the annual racket (or racquet) shindig on the grass courts of Wimbledon kicks off today. Tennis anyone, indeed.

But guess what else comes with tennis? Injuries! Today let’s take a look at some foot and lower leg injuries common to tennis.

What kind of injuries do tennis players get? Don’t they just walk around in white and sip tea while occasionally waving a racket at a ball No! Sounds like you’re thinking of cricket. Tennis players, of course, are highly competitive athletes who have to be in top shape in order to chase after that little ball. After all, some matches last three, four, or even five hours. And it’s not like the coach is there saying, “Okay, you look like you need a break. Number 4, you’re going in for number 5!” Nope, it’s all you out there on your own.

Tennis puts a lot of stress on players’ feet and ankles–think of the the quick cutting, sudden stopping, and sliding that occurs as the players dart around the court. Many of the injuries tennis players suffer are typical to all athletes who spend a lot of time running and generally pounding their feet and legs on hard surfaces:

However, there are two injuries that affect tennis players enough that we’ve even added “tennis” to their names. These are:

Tennis Leg – This is the nickname for tears in the gastrocnemius, the largest calf muscle, or the plantaris, a thin muscle that runs from the outside of the knee to the ankle. The gastrocnemius is a major force in helping you walk; the plantaris assists the gastrocnemius with bending your ankle up and down. In severe cases, both can tear at the same time.

The tears are most likely to occur when a person’s knee is straight rather than bent, and often happens when pushing off from a dead stop or jumping. These are both very common movements in tennis.

Symptoms of tennis leg include; a loud popping sound coming from your calf (loud popping sounds from any muscle area are never good); swelling; bruising; impaired ankle motion; inability or difficulty with standing on your toes (think of how your calf muscles have to work for you to do that). If you experience any of these, you should contact a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatment of tennis leg begins with the familiar rest and ice; you may also be advised to use crutches to help keep weight off the muscles. Once the muscle has healed, you’ll need to do rehab exercises to get your calf’s mobility back and up to the strength of the other one.

The best treatment, of course, is prevention. Stretching and warming up properly can help you prevent muscle tears or make them less severe.

Tennis toeThis sounds like a cute name, but it’s really nothing more than what is also known as runner’s toe, skier’s toe, or skater’s toe, all of which can most accurately be described as “black toe.” Seeing your a black toenail on your big toe is alarming, but it’s really nothing more than bruising and burst blood vessels under the nail that result in pooled blood that dries and blackens. This happens when you’re involved in an activity where you’re constantly pushing off or putting unusual pressure on your big toe. It also can be the result of too tight shoes, too long toenails, or trauma from a heavy blow or object.

In most cases, you can just leave it alone and after a while the nail will fall off to reveal a happy new pink one. The most important thing with tennis toe is to keep an eye on it and look out for signs of infection: redness, swelling, heat, pus. If you see those, you should see a podiatrist for treatment.

Don’t they play tennis on all kinds of surfaces? Which are the most dangerous? Well, none of them are shark dangerous, but grass courts are the slickest, and therefore the most likely to lead you to slide and twist, sprain, or fracture something. Clay courts and hardcourts are safer. You’re not going to do a lot of sliding on an asphalt tennis court at your local park, but they do have less give and will pound your feet and legs more.

My mom calls all rubber soled athletic shoe “tennis shoes.” Does this mean I can wear any kind of shoe to play tennis? No! While your mom’s terminology is very endearing in a sort of 1940s or ’50s way, all shoes are not tennis shoes. As always, it’s better to wear shoes that are made for the sport you’re playing. In tennis, you need to be able to slide from side to side, so therefore your shoes don’t need to have as much traction as running shoes; tennis shoes should “give” a little bit so you can make those quick cuts. They also have some cushioning in the toe box and the heels should fit well, so your heel doesn’t slide as you slide. Your tennis coach or salespeople at a good sporting goods store should be able to point you in the right direction.

Tennis is a great sport that can give you a super workout even if you’re not good at it (all that time chasing after those missed balls!). If, however, you run into foot or ankle problems as you hit the hard/clay/grass courts, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.





If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.