Review of the biomechanical function of the elbow joint during tennis strokes
*Professor Rafael Bahamonde. PhD. FACSM
Department of Physical Education. Indiana University. Indianapolis. USA
Objective: The objective of this review is to summarise the published research available on the biomechanics of the elbow joint during the performance of different tennis strokes and the implications in sports medicine.
Data sources: Academic Search Elite. PubMed. INFOTRAC and SportDiscus were use to search for related sources using a combination of terms such as: elbow. biomechanics. tennis. torques. kinetics. kinematics. forces. serve. backhand. forehand. tennis elbow. valgus overload. and tennis injuries from 1966-2004. Reference sections of key sources were also searched.
Study selection: Ninety-six resources were selected based on how relevant and important they were in relation to the stated objective.
Data extraction: The results presented in this review are the interpretation and summary of the author. No meta-analysis procedures were used in the presentation of the results.
Data synthesis: The elbow joint complex undergoes a forceful extension and pronation during the tennis serve but these torques are small compared to the varus torque exerted as the results of the external rotation motion of the upper arm and the internal rotation torque transmitted through the humerus onto the elbow. A similar mechanism occurs during the forehand stroke making the medial aspect of the elbow joint susceptible to injuries. During the backhand stroke. the elbow joint extends and it seems to supinate. but little is known about the kinetics (force and torques) of the one and two-handed backhand. Racquet impact data (hand forces. accelerations. and goniometric) seem to support the hypothesis that tennis elbow is caused by the initial shock wave that creates an eccentric overload of the forearm muscles.
Conclusions: The kinematics of the elbow during the tennis serve are well established but there exists a need for more kinetic and kinematics studies on all tennis strokes. especially on the backhand and forehand strokes. Future research needs to investigate how the effects of the different techniques. such as grip type. stance type. forehand and backhand type and poor techniques (leading elbow. off-centre hits. and hitting off the back foot) affect the elbow mechanics. Once kinetic models are developed. research should focus on the creation of computer simulations to provide information on technique modification in an effort to reduce the large mechanical loads placed at the elbow.