Age and Gender Differences in Injuries and Risk Factors in Elite Junior and Professional Tennis Players

Robyn Porter Rice, Kathryn Roach, Neva Kirk-Sanchez, Bret Waltz, Todd S. Ellenbecker, Neeru Jayanthi, Michele Raya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Elite tennis athletes experience injuries throughout the entire body. Impairments in trunk stability, lower limb flexibility, and hip range of motion (ROM) are modifiable risk factors that can impact injuries and performance. Information on nonmodifiable risk factors such as age and gender is limited. The purpose of this investigation was to provide information on risk factors to direct clinical decision-making and injury prevention and rehab programming in this population. Hypothesis: Prevalence and location of injuries will differ by age group and gender. Trunk stability, lower limb flexibility, and hip ROM will differ by age group and gender. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Level of Evidence: Level 3. Methods: A de-identified database (n = 237; females = 126) from the United States Tennis Association High Performance Profile (HPP) 2014-2015 was used for the analysis. Subjects were elite junior and professional tennis players (mean age 14.6 [range, 9-27] years). The HPP is a tennis-specific assessment and questionnaire that includes retrospective information on injury history. Subjects were categorized by injury, gender, and age. Injury locations were classified by region. Trunk stability measures included drop vertical jump (DVJ), single-leg squat, and prone and side planks. Lower limb measures included hamstring, quadriceps and hip flexor flexibility, and hip rotation ROM. Results: A total of 46% of athletes reported an injury. Significant differences were found for injury prevalence and location by age group. Adolescent athletes (age 13-17 years) had more trunk injuries, while adult athletes (age ≥18 years) had more lower limb injuries. Adolescent athletes performed worse on DVJ, dominant side plank, and hamstring flexibility compared with young (age ≤12 years) and adult athletes. Significant gender differences in hip ROM included internal rotation on both the dominant and nondominant sides. Conclusion: Impairments in trunk stability, lower limb flexibility, and hip rotation ROM may affect both health and performance outcomes in this population. Elite tennis athletes may benefit from additional off court programming to address trunk and lower limb impairments. Clinical Relevance: Adolescent elite tennis athletes may be at higher risk of trunk injuries. Age, gender, injury history, and impairments should be considered with all assessments and programming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSports Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • adolescent athlete
  • risk factors
  • sport-specific adaptations
  • tennis athlete
  • trunk strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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