I hurt my back playing tennis last week. I always hear about tennis elbow (which I've never had), but never about back injuries. Are back injuries unusual in tennis players?

Not at all. The demands put on the body during tennis can cause a wide range of injuries including low back, arm, and leg problems. Surprisingly, more nontennis players suffer from "tennis elbow" than actual tennis players. Tennis elbow can occur in anyone using the hand and forearm in a repetitive action.

Back injuries are far more common affecting up to half of all elite tennis players. Elite means the player is either a ranked player or plays in tournaments at the college or professional level. The number of back injuries may be different for players in adult tennis leagues. No studies have been reported on this group.

Researchers are starting to look for reasons for these injuries. They hope to find ways to prevent back problems. Studies measuring the strength of trunk muscles in 27,000 normal, uninjured subjects (ages 10 to 79) report equal strength from side to side. Future studies will take the same measurements in injured tennis players and compare them. This may give us some ideas for preventing back injuries in this sport.