Last Updated on October 26, 2023 by Sorin Petroj
Every sport leaves its players vulnerable to injuries; therefore, table tennis injuries are no exception.
Who would think that table tennis, a non-contact sport, would expose its players to any injury?
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Let us discuss seven common table tennis injuries and guide you on how to protect yourself.
1. Shoulder Pain
It is one of the most common injuries in table tennis that players experience, so we will invest more time unpacking it.
The shoulder is the most flexible and fluid part of the body, allowing it to have a wide range of movements during play. It is usually put to use when making sudden rapid movements. Thus, the shoulder is more susceptible to injury than any other part because of its mobility.
A player may suffer complete or partial dislocation of the shoulder, muscle pain, or tendon tear around the shoulder’s ball and socket joint. Shoulder pain may occur due to playing for too long without adequate rest, overusing the same technique, or wrong execution of a particular technique.
More strain and discomfort are felt in the hand that handles the paddle because the hand hits the ball continuously and serves as the recipient of the excess pressure exerted.
How to protect yourself from shoulder pain?
First and foremost, avoid overworking your forearm muscles. This saves you the trouble of seeking treatment since you avoid the injury altogether. Prevention is better than cure! Take breaks during practice sessions or games to not overexert your muscles. Overuse of muscles leads to them wearing out and tearing.
Besides that, avoid exerting too much pressure on the shoulder when playing. The body can utilize energy more effectively if it is sourced from the center of mass and then distributed evenly to other parts.
Also, generating strength from large body muscles such as the glutes, hips, and hamstrings saves smaller muscles from wearing out when playing. Power derived from large muscles is also more effective than delivering mighty shots.
Moreover, mastering your skill in a particular technique so that you do not apply it incorrectly is another measure to avoid injury.
Always ensure your shoulders are in the correct posture while playing to be correctly balanced. We spend many hours seated and gazing at televisions, laptops, or phones. With time we develop a slouching posture because of bending our backs inwards.
How to fix shoulder pain?
You need to engage in specific workout exercises for shoulders that are rotated internally (towards the body’s center). Internally rotated shoulders usually indicate weak back muscles because they are underused.
These workout exercises help properly align your shoulders and strengthen both the internal and external muscles of your upper body and the rotator cut-off.
Such drills include foam rolling, pull-ups, seated cable rows, and mobility exercises like band pull-apart. Consistently accommodating these into your workouts 3-5 times a week gradually bulletproofs your shoulders.
On top of that, you can participate in some light cardio warm-up exercises to raise your body temperature in readiness for the game. These drills include leg lunges, mountain climbers, planks, and butt kickers. After warming up, perform self-myofascial release and static and dynamic stretching exercises while alternating or combining them.
In a severe shoulder injury, seek timely treatment from an orthopedic specialist or a physiotherapist. The recovery period can take weeks or months before the shoulder resumes its normal functioning, and it may require rehabilitation. Please do not ignore the injury. It only aggravates the situation.
If the injury is mild, treatment may entail sufficient rest of the injured part and alternate heat and cold packs.
2. Knee Table Tennis Injuries
Table tennis players make unpredictable and swift movements as they execute a technique or save a point. They may get overambitious and push the body beyond its limits.
Besides being one of the most common table tennis injuries that players nurse, knee injuries are also the most serious ones. In severe cases, a mild knee fracture may occur due to a fracture or ligament or tendon tear in the knee area.
This may result in twisting, bending, or falling on their knees due to the quick shift from left to right. Such knee injuries are common table tennis injuries similar to ankle sprains. They are both caused by the player’s quick movements during the game.
How to protect yourself from knee injuries
A simple prevention measure to avoid injuries is wearing a knee wrap or strap as you play to secure the knee area. Wearing a knee brace with a hole in the center is even more advisable. This ensures the patella remains in its position and keeps it safeguarded.
While playing, see that you get into a receiving position as soon as you have delivered your shot to avoid straining when your opponent shoots back. You should consider using the best table tennis shoes to prevent this injury.
It is also important to hone your technique to avoid wrong execution by throwing yourself at a shot.
Besides that, consistently take part in physical exercises to fit your body and remain agile. This will make it easier for you to make fast movements from right to left without a hitch.
The knee joint is very sensitive. Timely consultation with a physician is therefore advised in case of an injury. In mild cases, take medication prescribed by the physician, get plenty of rest, and avoid overusing the knee.
If the case is severe, such as a knee fracture, treatment may entail surgery and physiotherapy. This means it will likely take a long time to heal completely, probably even months.
3. Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is also referred to as lateral epicondylitis or elbow pain. It is a condition characterized by pain and inflammation of the elbow joint as a consequence of overexerting the tendons in the elbow.
Many mistake a tennis elbow for a golfer’s elbow. To iron things out, a golfer’s elbow affects the internal part of the elbow, whereas the tennis elbow affects the external part of the elbow.
It is caused by repetitive movement of the forearm, overexertion of arms and forearms, and poor playing technique. It is excruciatingly painful; hence its treatment may take longer.
How to protect yourself from tennis elbow injuries
Experts advise players to allow ample time to rest their hands and forearms. Working on your coordination and balance is also helpful to avoid falling on your elbow during a game (although it is pretty rare).
If a severe injury occurs, stop any activity that causes pain and consult a physiotherapist. You can engage in exercises under their supervision to aid in quick recovery.
When gradually reintroducing table tennis during recovery after an injury, poor delivery of a stroke worsens the injury. Either the elbow or the wrist receives the energy resulting in further damage to the tissues. Seek help from a qualified coach to avoid this.
The recovery period for tennis elbow injuries may take months or even years. It is, therefore, crucial to address the problem by its root cause so that you can avoid delaying your play by taking such extended breaks.
Here are some self-care tips that you can take when nursing an injury:
- Enhance the quality of the lateral epicondyle tissue by engaging the area in foam rolling.
- Perform exercises that strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility, especially on the forearm.
- Build strength in the entire body and learn to obtain power from utilizing larger muscles like the shoulders and hips. Depending entirely on the elbow and the wrist muscles when playing exerts too much pressure on them and quickens tearing.
- You can reintroduce table tennis progressively into your workout routine but not overdo it. Allow your coach to assess your skill level and technique to correct any shortcomings in your stroke.
- After the pain and swelling have died down, you can apply heat to the hurt area. The heat helps relax the muscles and ease the tension resulting from partial immobility.
It also causes the blood vessels in the area to dilate, allowing increased blood flow. The blood carries nutrients to nourish the injured tissue and carries away dead cells and cell debris from the injured area to facilitate a speedy recovery.
4. Sprained ankle
This is an acute injury that ranges in intensity. It comes about when a player suddenly turns sharply or is imbalanced and puts too much effort as they deliver a stroke.
Sprained ankles are one of the very common table tennis injuries. The most likely cause of a sprained ankle is the excessive force applied to the foot during play. This can result from running or jumping too quickly and planting your weight onto one leg.
This condition often occurs when players do not wear supportive equipment, such as adequate table tennis shoes with proper support for their toes.
What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle? The most common sign that you have suffered an injury to your foot or toes on the bottom side (plantar) may be a pain when putting weight onto it. You can also experience swelling and bruising, making movement difficult for some time afterward. However, these should improve with rest alone. So, you can provide it. There’s no tearing present in either case!
Other signs include feeling less stable while walking/standing up quickly and intuitively knowing how far away things were placed from us due to their proximity without seeing them first-hand.
How to protect yourself from sprained ankle table tennis injuries?
Use shoes that are comfortable to play in. They should specifically have a low heel and a firm grip. Experts advise players to use footwear specially designed for table tennis since they can accommodate the players’ motions without exposing them to injuries.
Table tennis can have adverse repercussions on the lower body if you follow the rules when playing. That being said, resistance training is recommended to strengthen the lower body muscles. On several occasions, resistance training is underrated.
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People assume that others lift weights or do push-ups to build their bodies into the ‘perfect’ shape. Resistance training strengthens the muscles and power of the body and increases the body’s ability to endure a resistant force and eventually defeat it.
It also helps minimize the energy used when moving fast and unpredictably to exert less pressure on the lower body. Set yourself in a ready position immediately after delivering a shot to avoid straining when your opponent strikes.
You can alternatively work on strengthening the flexibility of your ankle joint. You can do foam rolling drills to strengthen the calves and utilize a golf ball to roll out the foot.
Additional flexibility and mobility exercises can be incorporated into your workout, such as the knee-to-wall exercise for ankle mobility and the rocking ankle mobilization technique.
Single-leg exercises are another category of exercises that improve the maintenance of balance and proper coordination and build on strength. These exercises make the ankle joint more resistant to twisting and maximize its stability.
Furthermore, you can liaise with a qualified coach to help you properly coordinate your footwork. Simply being in total control of your lower limbs dramatically reduces the chances of injuries.
Always seek medical attention as soon as possible because a sprained ankle is a severe injury.
5. Calf Strain
A calf strain is a common injury in table tennis. Many of these can be caused by factors, including overusing your legs and playing on an uneven surface. However, you can be too tired from practicing plays that require heavy calf muscles.
It’s always best to stop before any physical symptoms arise!
A calf strain table tennis injury can be quite painful and require surgery. The muscle on the front of your leg, also called gastrocnemius or knee flexor, originates from below. It meets with one’s tibia (lower end). Also, being attached further along its length crosses over both sides to give more stability. For example, our entire lower body when we bend forward during running.
So, if you consider what some people do while playing sports like football, this would make sense! It works together with other muscles.
Calf strains can be described as a tightness felt in the calves as a player plays. It often comes from the player overusing their calf muscles without proper rest.
Interestingly, long periods of simply standing during the game are enough to cause calf strain. The dominant cause of this injury is fatigue of the muscles.
How to protect yourself from a calf strain?
Please take part in light warm-up exercises to prepare the muscles for the game and relax them. Playing with relaxed muscles is a measure to avoid injuries.
Another tip for protecting yourself from injuries is to distribute moments of rest in between periods of vigorous play. Having some rest during play is necessary to avoid straining the calf muscles.
Rest is most likely all you will need to nurse a calf strain. A day or two of relaxing should do the trick. Where extreme pain is experienced, please consult a physician since it may warrant physiotherapy to assist the muscle in healing.
6. Muscle Strain Table Tennis Injuries
At one point, several table tennis players have complained about pain that restricts movement in their thigh muscles, neck, back, or even shoulders. This is the infamous muscle strain, also called the pulled muscle. It occurs when a muscle is overstretched, worn out, and torn.
The causes of muscle strain are instant and speedy moves while playing, fatigue of the muscles, playing without a proper warm-up, and inadequate rest since most players stubbornly insist on playing even with an injury.
A muscle strain or tear could happen when a player strains their back muscles while executing certain shots, for example, getting up from behind the service line after being down by two points with no time left on either side of them. This would cause frustration because now they cannot serve as well without help from another person doing so instead.
Therefore, giving away more points causes players who have just been defeated all-out to go crazy at each other until someone makes peace between opponents before things escalate even further within these types to start pushing.
How to protect yourself from muscle strain?
It is vital to understand that adjusting to this kind of activity will take time as you introduce your body to table tennis. Consequently, it guarantees that your muscles will protest and tire out. Don’t you worry! Consistent practice will help your body get used to the various moves as long as you avoid excessive play in the initial stages.
Another measure to avoid injury is properly warming up before the game begins to relax the muscles and eliminate any stiffness. It can take 10-20 minutes. It also accelerates the heartbeat and breathing rates, increasing blood flow into the muscles. This makes them warmer.
For severe tears, seek medical help and religiously follow the physician’s directions. Apply an anti-inflammatory medicine and alternate ice and heat packs for mild strains.
7. Wrist Sprain
Did you know that players new to table tennis are more susceptible to wrist sprains than their veteran counterparts? Newbies have not mastered the techniques that the more experienced veterans have. Therefore, newbies generally execute techniques wrongly. Dear newbie, the biggest room in the world is room for improvement!
Wrist sprains occur due to overstretching the ligaments supporting the wrist or tearing them. It may show swelling around the injured area.
As much as you can move the wrist clockwise and anticlockwise, it remains a stiff part of the hand. Swinging it intentionally or forcefully during a game causes it to have a snapping effect.
When delivering a backhand shot, the wrist is mainly put to work, leaving it vulnerable to a wrist injury. Forehand strokes do not utilize the wrist.
Wrist sprains’ severity varies from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the ligaments’ damage.
How to protect yourself from wrist sprain injuries
It is advisable to relax the forearm muscles to unwind the wrist. Wearing a wristband helps as the band absorbs sweat in the wrist area.
Perfect your table tennis skills to make shots using a relaxed wrist and the correct technique.
It would help if you were relaxed to allow smooth strokes. A relaxed composure also enables you to avoid unnecessary pressure on the wrist and keep it steady.
If a wrist sprain occurs, do not hesitate to consult a doctor for assistance to protect yourself from further injuries.
Additional measures to avoid table tennis injuries
Believe it or not, advancing to a higher level of play has its downside. It subjects the body to more strain because of the player’s unnatural movements.
These measures reduce the risk of table tennis injuries, making playing a worthwhile experience. Here are a few more tips on how to protect yourself from injuries:
When you are too stiff, your muscles are tightened. This prevents your body from performing quick paces because doing so strains your tendons and ligaments. So, maintain your composure and remain relaxed to keep loose.
Avoid handling your paddle too tightly. A looser grip results in more effortless movement of the arm, wrist, and shoulders because they are free.
Just as warming up prepares the body for the game, cooling down generally prevents soreness of the muscles. Of course, many know they should cool down, but very few do.
Skipping cool-down drills may cause painful muscle cramps after an intense game. We recommend static stretches as cool-down drills.
You can engage in stretching and strengthening exercises if you are worried about managing a particular injury. However, do not perform any activity that awakens pain! You can collaborate with your therapist to develop exercises to help heal the injury.
Yoga and Pilates have been known to come in handy to work on strength and overall flexibility because they reduce the risk of injuring muscles and tendons.
Poor footwork can lead to stumbling, twisting knees, bumping into your partner, or throwing yourself at a shot that strains the knees, shoulder joints, and back muscles.
When playing, a good posture calls for your left foot to be slightly behind your right foot (if you are left-handed), your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your upper body should be inclined forward.
Instead of stretching for the ball, your intention is to stop or hit the ball. Get into a ready position to receive the ball after playing a shot to minimize stress on the body.
Table Tennis Injuries – Final thoughts
As we have explored, table tennis injuries are numerous, each with its unique intensity. Taking measures to avoid injuries does not nullify getting hurt. It only reduces the chances.
You should always consult a doctor in the event of an injury and avoid procrastination. Self-treatment is only recommended in mild cases.
These tips will indeed prove to be helpful as you learn how to protect yourself from table tennis injuries.
If you are a table tennis player, taking care of your body is essential. We have provided some general guidelines for prevention and treatment if an injury does occur. It’s always best to be proactive, but don’t hesitate to reach out if something does happen!
In addition, don’t forget about exercises like hand splints or carpal tunnel stretches, which a doctor may recommend if you think nerve damage is present. These will help keep your muscles strong and prevent any more strain on your arm and finger nerves caused by overuse during play.
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