Don't Blame Racket for Tennis Elbow

It's not your grip, it's your game that's the problem, study finds

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FRIDAY, Dec. 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Your swing, not your racket, may be the culprit when it comes to developing tennis elbow (tendonitis), experts report.

An improperly-sized -- either too small or too large -- tennis racket grip does not cause the common malady, according to a study in the December issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

"An optimal grip size may influence the force with which a player hits the ball, but variations in grip size are unlikely to be contributing factors in overuse injuries such as tennis elbow," researcher Dr. George F. Hatch III, of the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement.

The finding goes against traditional advice from doctors, he added.

"Clinicians who treat patients with tennis elbow often tell them to try a different size grip in order to alleviate muscle fatigue. Our study demonstrates that those recommendations have no scientific basis. Therefore, it is reasonable to recommend whatever grip size feels most comfortable for them," Hatch said.

He and his colleagues studied 16 NCAA Division I and II tennis players (10 men, 6 women) with no prior history of elbow problems. The players were told to do single-handed backhand strokes using identical tennis rackets with three different grip sizes. While the players used the rackets, the researchers measured the firing patterns of muscles in the players' forearms.

The different grip sizes did not affect the firing patterns of the muscles.

"Based on our data, we recommend recreational tennis players use the currently accepted grip size measurement technique as a starting point when picking a grip size. However, the player should feel free to increase or decrease the size of the grip based upon what feels most comfortable," Hatch said.

Instead, players should look to changing their technique to help ease tennis elbow, he said, since "previous studies have shown that improper form is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of tendonitis."

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about tennis elbow.

SOURCE: American Journal of Sports Medicine, news release, Dec. 1, 2006

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